Indian Time - A Voice from the Eastern Door

Town of Massena supporting tribe's effort to buy RACER parcel, build Akwesasne welcome center


MASSENA -- A 46-acre portion of the former General Motors site on the south side of state Route 37, east of the bridge going into Akwesasne, may become a welcome center for the Mohawk community.

The board voted unanimously at their Monday meeting to write a letter in support of the tribe’s effort to buy the parcel from the RACER trust, which took over the property after GM went bankrupt.

“I would just be happy if anybody wanted to develop out there,” Town Supervisor Steve O’Shaughnessy said.

Councilman Tom Miller, who voted in favor of supporting the tribe, said he was concerned that the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe owning the land could take it from the local tax rolls, but no one had a definite answer.

“I’m sure if the Natives get ahold of it, that’ll be waived,” Miller said, referring to a possible waiver of town taxes.

“It’s still Town of Massena property,” O’Shaughnessy said.

Miller went on to say he thinks Massena should build their own welcome center in the area.

“I’m not against it (supporting the tribe). I’m just saying we have to think about our future with a welcome center,” he said.

Several board members pointed out that the land the tribe wants is too far east for a Massena welcome center. A town facility would be better placed to the west.

“If we had a welcome center, we’d be going west, turn right off the (international) bridge,” said Nate Lashomb, executive director of the Massena Chamber of Commerce.

He said the tribe is willing to offer support for Massena projects in return.

“The tribe will be writing letters of support to help us with our Downtown Revitalization Initiative, too,” according to Lashomb. The initiative is a $10 million competitive state grant for downtown improvements. The Massena chamber recently signed a three-way partnership with the Akwesasne and Cornwall chambers of commerce.

“I think talking to different officials from the reservation ... they’re willing to work with us in promoting the area,” O’Shaughnessy said.


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