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Lyons Falls mill project touted at regional economic development forum

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LYONS FALLS — Redevelopment of the old Lyons Falls Pulp & Paper mill took center stage at a North Country Regional Economic Development Council forum held here Monday afternoon.

“The mill site is extremely important to our community,” Mayor Catherine L. Liendecker told those gathered at the Forest Presbyterian Church on Center Street, including council Co-Chairmen Anthony G. Collins and Garry F. Douglas. “Soon, our 12-year eyesore across the street will be gone.”

Lewis County Development Corp. President Lawrence L. Dolhof commended council members for establishing mill redevelopment as a priority project and recommending funding for the effort.

“Without them, we would not be as far as we are now,” he said. “We’ve come a long ways in two years.”

The development corporation was awarded $330,000 in 2011 and an additional $1 million in December for the redevelopment project, which is expected to cost about $5 million and is being managed by the Development Authority of the North Country.

Bids came in “quite favorable” for the initial phase, including demolition of heavily deteriorated buildings that are hindering Kruger Energy from undertaking a proposed expansion of its adjacent hydroelectric facility, Mr. Dolhof said. Corporation officials are working to ensure they have a needed match to leverage the state funding, he said.

Carrie M. Tuttle, engineering director for DANC, said officials are ironing out a financing agreement with Empire State Development, but she was hopeful the first phase could still be completed before the end of the year.

Future phases are to include demolition of other deteriorated buildings at the complex, a feasibility study to determine whether reuse of the remaining structures would be cost-effective and removal of ancillary structures, such as old tanks, she said.

“That’s been the strategy, to break it up into manageable pieces,” Ms. Tuttle said.

The project could lead to increased adventure tourism, such as kayaking, and improved public access to the Black and Moose rivers, Mrs. Liendecker said. A historical group also is mulling development of a paper mill museum here, she said.

Mr. Collins, president of Clarkson University, Potsdam, said the regional economic development process has seemed to help ongoing projects like the one here, with a state emphasis on helping to bring them to completion.

He also touted the council’s emphasis on development of value-added agricultural products and suggested Lewis County could be a “bread basket” for such projects.

The north country region has fared well over the two years of the regional council model, garnering $90.2 million as a top performing region in 2011 and $103.2 million as a “best plan” winner in 2012.

Mr. Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, Plattsburgh, said keys to the region’s success have been focusing on strategies rather than individual projects and attempting to keep politics out of the process.

“We’ve been doing it right, and we’re going to continue doing it right,” he said.

About $750 million will be available this year. The top five regions are to receive $25 million each for priority projects, with the other five to split $25 million, Mr. Collins said.

The deadline for funding applications is Aug. 12.

Regional council officials held a similar session Monday evening in Clayton, while others are planned today at 2:30 p.m. at Malone Golf Club and at 6 p.m. at the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority, 1 Bridge Plaza.

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