CAROGA — Although the ultimate fate of the former Sherman’s Amusement Park remains uncertain, the town board voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve a series of four summer concerts sponsored by the Caroga Arts Collective slated to be held at the 8.6-acre venue located at the intersection of Route 10 and Route 29A
The free public concerts, called the “Sherman’s Revival Series,” are slated for: Saturday at 6 p.m., featuring Chris Jamison from NBC’s The Voice; Aug. 5, 6 p.m., featuring Mike Block and the Silk Road Ensemble; Aug. 12, 6 p.m., featuring J-Music Pocked Band & Saunders Brothers; and Aug. 19, 6 p.m., featuring vocalist Lo Marie with CLMF Musicians.
Supervisor Beth Morris said the town board had first approved the concerts back in the fall, months before the town had ironed out the insurance and safety requirements to determine whether the town could allow the Caroga Arts Collective to conduct the concerts. She said town officials have determined the town can allow the concert series to go forward, but the last issue that still needed to be resolved is payment.
“It was a part of the original resolution, that we would have to discuss payment, and here we are just a few days before the event,” she said.
Morris said it’s important to many town residents that as long as Caroga owns Sherman’s, it should use the venue to generate revenue to at least offset the costs of maintaining it. She said engineering work leading up to the decision of whether to allow the concerts cost the town $3,500, and the town is looking at a steep spike in insurance costs next year for some of the buildings at the park.
Morris proposed charging the Caroga Arts Collective $1,500 and establishing a town policy to charge $500 for use of the property as a venue. Several members of the public attempted to voice their opinions about the proposal, but Morris said public comment was closed for the workshop meeting, prompting one man to leave in a huff.
Town Councilman Jeremy Manning questioned whether $500 might be too much money, and could possibly discourage nonprofits from wanting to hold public events there.
“To me, I think that’s a little steep at this point in time. I think down the road it won’t be too steep if we’ve made improvements to it, and we have a nice facility that people can use and enjoy. Right now I just think that’s a little steep,” Manning said. “I mean, if a Boy Scout troop wants to come up and use the property, are they paying $500? If a veterans group comes up and wants to use the property, are they paying $500, every single time? To me, that’s a little steep at this time.”
Morris said she thinks $500 could be a lot less than the town could charge for some types of events, like a wedding. She said someone willing to pay as high as $2,000 to rent the facility for a wedding called the town in the spring and she had to tell him no because there were still too many unanswered liability concerns. She said the town’s price policy needs to be consistent to any parties that might want to rent the venue.
Councilman John “Jack” Glenn said he thinks there should also be a $500 security deposit fee.
Councilman Anthony “Tony” Sturchio said he wanted to hear the opinion of Jim Selmser, the town’s former supervisor who is running for the position unopposed in November. Morris said if they allow Selmser to speak she has to open it up to all public comment, which the board did.
Selmser told the board that in the past the town has often waived set fees for things in instances when the fees would be charged to non-profit groups or government-related entities.
One member of the audience said he’d like to have a classic car show at Sherman’s to benefit a volunteer fire department, but a $500 fee would mean the fundraiser would make little to no money.
Morris said Sherman’s would never have been ready to host the concerts if not for the volunteers who helped clean it up, and donations such as lumber from Kingsboro Lumber Company used to construct fences. She said the fee structure she is proposing could be subject to change and should be reviewed annually, but she implored the town board and those in attendance at the meeting to consider the views of all town residents with respect to Sherman’s.
“You see positive change that can happen when there is not animosity. That’s what we need to do. This town has been torn apart for three years. This is the reason that two of us [on the town board] are sitting here. We have to listen to each other, instead of being at each other,” Morris said. “It’s not fun when I go to meetings across the county and upstate and everybody knows who we are because of the notoriety of Sherman’s. Wouldn’t it be great to go someplace and hear somebody say something positive about Caroga Lake instead of them saying that we’re crazy. Those are the kinds of things I hear. We need to move forward as a community — we’re not all going to get what we want — so, lets compromise.”
The board voted unanimously to approve Morris’ plan to institute the $500 fee structure, which will also require a $500 security deposit for events.
Caroga Arts Collective President Rick Ruby, who is also the owner of the furniture store Ruby & Quiri in Johnstown, praised the board for moving forward and allowing the concert series. He said nostalgia runs deep in the local community for Sherman’s, and although it may never be what it was during the days when he road the bumper cars there, it can still be a wonderful venue for the public to enjoy.
“The precedent that you’re setting is certainly up to the board, but our motivation is to see something positive offered at Sherman’s this season with these four concerts. We are more than comfortable with paying the $1,500 and a security deposit,” he said.
The town board has been debating what to do with Sherman’s ever since Gloversville-based attorney George Abdella donated the property to Caroga in 2015. Abdella included a donation agreement with the property that included a number of strings attached to it, including that the property could not be sold to a developer.
The Sherman’s Advisory Committee, an 11-member panel formed by the board, has recommended the town lease the property to the Caroga Arts Collective, but it seems unlikely the current board will make a decision on the property, leaving it to the board elected after November.
Ruby said the Caroga Arts Collective intends to make the most of its opportunity to hold four concerts at Sherman’s this summer.
“We will assure that the property will be better off than it was a month ago when we leave,” he said. “We’re looking at it as a donation to help Sherman’s. As we’ve all talked about, there is enough negative stuff going on in this world; we don’t need as much of that here in Caroga Lake.”