LAKE GEORGE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Mayor Bob Blais remembers a time when his village had its own dedicated police station. Five officers operated there year-round, with between 16 and 20 more joining every summer to help keep the peace during Lake George’s signature summer rush.
That station closed in 1988. Fast-forward 34 years, and Blais says that something similar to his memories may be set to open in the village again.
Lake George is considering the addition of a police substation, which would be operated by the Warren County Sheriff’s Department. Currently, a county officer is stationed in the village year-round, joined by a couple of on-foot officers during busier weekend evenings in the summer. A station would allow those officers to work more efficiently – especially as life in the village changes.
“I thought that perhaps now, with the fact that Lake George is becoming more of a year-round destination, we need presence year-round,” Blais said on Tuesday. “Whereas for the last several years the village was pretty quiet in the winter, with Ice Castles and other events, we expect to be pretty busy all through this winter.”
Ice Castles, a fully explorable ice sculpture attraction being built in Charles R. Wood Park this month, is just one of a few things keeping the village busy this winter. Others include the ongoing Lake George Winterfest, and February’s Lake George Winter Carnival.
With attractions like those bringing traffic to the village’s parks, restaurants, bars and waterside through more of the year, the time was ripe for a conversation between Blais and Warren County Sheriff Jim LaFarr. LaFarr has been county sheriff for the last year, in which time he’s been vocal about wanting to improve police relationships with county communities, including Lake George.
“Having a station in Lake George would benefit our sheriff’s office tremendously during the busy summer season,” LaFarr said. “More importantly, having officers permanently assigned to Lake George will allow us to form deeper roots and benefit the community. The goal is for officers and residents to get better acquainted, and build relationships.”
The creation of a substation would help LaFarr to improve those relationships. It would also aid his officers in doing their job better, and faster.
“Right now, if a car makes an arrest in the village, they have to go all the way down to the town of Queensbury,” Blais explained, referring to the sheriff’s office at the Warren County Municipal Center – a long drive down Route 9, during the busy season. “This way, they won’t have to.”
There’s no timeline for the project yet, with conversations just starting between the village and the department. Blais hopes that a substation could be established by summer 2023.
As for where, there are a couple of locations the mayor has his eye on. The main one is a building on the corner of Route 9 and Birch Street, a location across from the currently-closed Lake George Forum, just a quarter mile up the hill from where Route 9 turns into Canada Street. The building is currently home to The FUND for Lake George, a group that works in environmental advocacy regarding the protection of the lake.
LaFarr said that he fully supports the idea of a substation. Before his time, when the original Lake George police station was dissolved in 1988, the five officers who went to the county would still come and focus on the village in the summers. As department management changed and officers moved around over the years, that ended.
For a number of years after that, the village had a 12- to 14-person peace corp, who were hired and trained every summer. They weren’t police, and what they could do had its limits. The program was even the subject of some lawsuits. Those were just some of the issues that led to the end of the program.
“There came a time, five or six years ago, when we couldn’t find enough interested individuals to train them,” Blais said. “It became quite expensive to train them as well. When it first started, we used to get a lot of people from colleges, but over time we couldn’t get that anymore.”
Recently, the village of Lake George made the decision to opt out of marijuana sales, after a public hearing where a vast majority of locals spoke out against the idea of cannabis dispensaries or cafes operating downtown. While marijuana concerns aren’t the main driving force behind the project, Blais cited a complaint that fueled the opt-out decision as one that could also come up for the proposed substation.
“When we had our public hearing to make a decision on allowing sales or not, we heard from a lot of property owners that problems they’ve had over the last few years were the result of marijuana use. So that indicates that, yeah, those issues might increase from what they’ve been. We might get some more calls.”