Weight Watchers nix town offer but birders closer to perching in visitor center

B y Lee Tugas

Several weeks after the town requested a $100 monthly donation, the Whitehall Weight Watchers group has chosen the Whitehall High School library as its meeting site over the town Senior Citizen Center.

The for-profit group was asked last month a make a monthly donation of $100 for using the senior citizen wing of the Whitehall Recreation Center. Supervisor George Armstrong said that he assumed that it was the requested donation that caused the group to reject the senior citizen site.

The group numbers nearly 40 members, Armstrong said.

He added that he did not know whether Whitehall Central School was charging the weight reduction group a fee for use of the high school library. Checking town correspondence, Armstrong noted all that Weight Watchers has said was that it has chosen the high school library over the senior citizen center for their weigh-in and counseling sessions.

The request for a $100 donation came about as a result of the town’s last meeting in February, where the board members agreed to study and develop a policy for charging not-for-profit and for-profit groups who use the recreation center.

The consensus was that some kind of sliding scale should be used to differentiate between for-profits and non-profits. In studying and developing such a policy, the board agreed to follow the advice of its town attorney, Erika Sellar Ryan.

Birders will nest free

In contrast to the rebuff from the Weight Watchers Group, Armstrong reported that an official from Washington County Grasslands IBA “had been favorably impressed” in her recent tour of the Canal Corp Visitor Center.

“Laurie LaFond,” Armstrong said, “told us that her group (the IBA) will meet in mid-March to decide whether or not to occupy the main suite of rooms of the Canal Corp Visitor Center.”

Unlike the Weight Watchers Group, the town is not seeking any monthly stipend from the bird group, a fact that sparked complaint from Town Councilman Farrell Prefountaine.

“They’re going in there and not paying?” Prefountaine asked loudly at the February meeting of the town board.

At that meeting, Armstrong persuaded board members that seven-day occupancy by the bird group would keep the building safe from summer-time vandalism and quite possibly attract grant monies that would offset heating costs in winter.

The board members were also persuaded by Armstrong’s arguments that “birding” is an enthusiasm shared by millions of people both in Canada and the U.S. Establishment of Whitehall as a birding center could bring much-needed tourism dollars to cash-strapped Whitehall.

On Monday, Armstrong reiterated his conviction that the bird group will indeed occupy the Visitor Center.

“They would use one section of the center for offices, and the two other sections for displays,” Armstrong said, the same kind of exhibits the group displayed at Whitehall’s recent winter carnival.







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