Ogdensburg mayor says OBPA hindering progress in city, asks them to support beach
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG – Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly says the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority is failing in its goal to be a catalyst for economic development in the city and region.
In a scathing letter issued to local media outlets Skelly criticized OBPA Board of Directors Chairman Vernon ‘Sam’ Burns.Attempts to compact Burns and OBPA Executive Director Steve Lawrence for comments on this story were unsuccessful.
In his letter Skelly said the current majority city council has been working to strengthen the Ogdensburg economy, but says the OBPA is hindering their endeavor.
“As an example, I point to a recent offer from an out of county car dealership to purchase bridge and port owned property along Route 37 in the city near the access road to the Ogdensburg-Prescott International Bridge,” Skelly wrote. “To my knowledge OBPA officials turned down the offer because in their minds the proposed price wasn’t high enough.”
North Country This Week was not able to verify if such an offer existed or was in fact rejected by the OBPA.
Skelly was also critical of the OBPA for what he perceives as resistance to leasing the Ogdensburg beach to the city.
“You can add this latest example to the current list of the OBPA’s reluctance to lease property to the city for a new beach on the St. Lawrence River, and the authority’s lack of initiative in cleaning up its own self-contaminated property so it can be returned to the tax rolls for development. When put together it begs the question of what is the role the OBPA should play in helping develop the city and region?”
City Manager Stephen Jellie said at a recent meeting between the city and OBPA was productive, but “hearty” and has plans to give a presentation to the OBPA regarding Ogdensburg beach in May. OBPA officials have not provided public comment as to concerns or support of the city’s effort.
Skelly went on to criticize the OBPA’s plan to build a public daycare.
In April, Burns issued a letter outlining the plan.
“The OBPA has a committee already looking into the possibility of constructing an up to date modern childcare facility within the Commerce Park Campus that will make it easier for parents to maintain jobs while being comfortable about the safety and care of their children. This will help in attracting and retaining good jobs in our community,” Burns said in the letter.
But Skelly disagrees.
“It seems to me it makes more sense to create jobs first and build a daycare second. It also makes more sense to me to let the private sector invest in facilities like daycares, not the government,” Skelly said.
Despite his harsh critique of the OBPA’s recent efforts, Skelly is seeking their support.
“So, I am asking Mr. Burns and his friends in Albany, please help us reopen the Ogdensburg beach, please sell your excess land to return it to the tax rolls and create new jobs, and please clean up your contaminated property. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of a government authority that was created to enhance economic growth in St. Lawrence County and across the region,” he said.