Lake Placid losers: local stores

By the time the summer Olympic Games get under way in Moscow July 19, the committee that organized the winter Olympics in Lake Placid will probably have filed for bankruptcy.

But it is not the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee (LPOOC) that will be suffering as a result.

Rather, it is the "little man" -- from florists to office supply store owners -- who eventually will have to pick up the tab for the LPOOC's estimated $6 million debt from cost overruns.

A LPOOC spokesman says attorneys for the committee have begun preparing bank ruptcy papers. In addition, attorneys for the State of New York have been directed to determine what liability the state would face as a result of an LPOOC bankruptcy.

At least five suits have been brought against the LPOOC for nonpayment of bills. Many merchants are using their savings to pay their debts to give the LPOOC time to garner more federal and state funds.

The prospects that no more than one-third of the $6 million will ever be repaid are growing, according to the latest round of meetings the LPOOC had with the Carter administration and state officials last week.

Edward Lewi, chief spokesman for the LPOOC, says the federal government has agreed to match a $1 million pledge of additional support from the state, which would make good $2 million of the $6 million debt. But further contribution pledges are considered highly unlikely. Federal officials have said any more assistance on their part is contingent on additional state aid, a prospect that observers in Albany feel is unlikely. New York State is considered seriously strapped for extra cash, due primarly to a loss of overall federal aid.

Gar Munn, who with his brother owns Munn's Office Supply, has had to renew a bank loan he took to cover money owned him by the LPOOC, all the while expecting that the LPOOC would soon pay him back. Another merchant, A. J. Battaglia of Lake George Produce, is owned $26,000 and is paying weekly loan installments on money he borrowed to cover this amount.

"A lot of people around here say 'let the LPOOC sink," -- the committee did so much wrong -- but the people that really suffer are the small businesses that the committee owes money to," said one Lake Placid-area resident.

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