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June 24 08:46 AM
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Coalition Chair Seeks ORDA Understandings Calls for an Agenda of Progress


02/10/2012 - Former NYS Senator Mike Balboni was honored at Belleayre Mt. Saturday night with the Spirit of the Catskills Award at the annual Snow Ball celebration. Balboni, a member of Governor Cuomo's SAGE commission, was honored by the Coalition to Save Belleayre for his many years of support for the ski center and its programs. At the same time, Joe Kelly, Chairman of the Coalition spoke about the community's goals for the future of the state owned facility.

Kelly said in part: "As you all know by now Governor Cuomo has proposed legislation to transfer operation of Belleayre Mt. from the DEC to the Olympic Regional Development Authority. This is very much in line with his policies of streamlining government. We respond to this move with cautious optimism but with some definitive suggestions for going forward." Noting that the last three years have been very difficult both for the mountain and consequently the surrounding community, Kelly added; "We have seen the dire consequences of some very ill conceived directives and policy changes from Albany that have caused tremendous economic hardship to our Central Catskills community. We understand the DEC has been under the double pressure of increased regulatory policies to enforce and maintain while at the same time contending with a steadily decreasing staff."

But in comments as much to the DEC and ORDA as they were to the Belleayre audience, Kelly was firm. "While we understand what has happened, this region can not continue to exist as a sideline or afterthought to another more important agenda. We must have our own agenda, an agenda of progress, jobs, and a strong say in our own economic future and survival." Recalling Hurricane Irene and the role Belleayre Mt. played, Kelly said, "We as a region have just experienced a cataclysmic flood of biblical proportions. We survived all that nature could throw at us. Belleayre and its employees were a beacon of hope and performed tirelessly in a valiant and resolute manner. They have been beaten from pillar to post now for three years and endured all kind economic hardship. But they stepped up to the plate and performed heroically. They deserve our gratitude and our support."

Kelly announced a number of items that Coalition members want to see in ORDA legislation to insure the continued success of Belleayre Mt. 1) We want the Belleayre community to have meaningful representation on the ORDA Board so our regional concerns are heard and addressed. We also want a regional advisory group formed to provide input to that board on a regular basis.

2) The status of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center as an emergency command and control center for regional disaster relief efforts must be recognized and recognition of its employees as first responders for the safety of this region must be continued. The events of August and September 2011 demonstrate quite clearly the essential nature of this recognition.

3) There must be an understanding that Belleayre is a year-round facility and operates as the economic engine and community "Main Street" to draw tourists to our area. This is our economic lifeblood. Year-round programs like The Belleayre Music Festival and The Belleayre Beach must be maintained and supported as they have in the past. The festival is a very successful public-private partnership that receives the lion's share of if its financial support from an extremely generous community.

4) The employees of Belleayre Mountain, as we said before have performed incredibly under very difficult circumstances to both develop and maintain an award winning ski experience while at the same time responding consistently and heroically to the needs of our surrounding communities. They deserve a secure future along with fair and decent treatment, wages and benefits. Good employee relations during this transition period will pay benefits for years to come.

Concluding his comments, Kelly said, "Since the first chairlift in the State of New York was installed on the mountain more than 60 years ago, Belleayre Mt. has been the jewel of the Catskills and the economic lynch pin of the region. We cherish that jewel and even as we pass it on to a new generation of stewards, we pledge our commitment to polishing that jewel so it continues to shine bright for another 60 years."

In comments following the Snowball, Kelly added that ORDA legislation should also reflect the fact that Belleayre was created to serve as an economic catalyst for this region; to help communities where the State of New York and the City of New York own the majority of the property and prevent it's development. "Belleayre must involve the community businesses in promotions, packages and other cooperative efforts that will attract skiers not just to the mountain, but to local businesses around the mountain." More information on the Coalition to Save Belleayre is available at www.coalitiontosavebelleayre.org.

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