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Massena chamber loses Seaway representative on board of directors

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MASSENA — Although the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. has had a seat on the Greater Massena Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors for several years, chamber officials say they’ve been advised by the Seaway’s legal counsel that it no longer can have a representative fill that seat, chamber Executive Director Michael J. Gleason told his board this week.

Vicki J. Garcia, who recently retired, had been on the board for several years, first as a voting member and during her last year as a nonvoting member. Salvatore E. Pisani, Seaway Corp. associate administrator for Seaway operations, was elected to take Ms. Garcia’s place as a nonvoting member, and he was replaced last month by Joan L. Catanzarite, also from the Seaway.

But after Ms. Catanzarite’s appointment during the chamber’s May board meeting, Mr. Gleason said he was informed that it no longer could have a Seaway representative on its board, although its bylaws indicate that one seat will be held by a Seaway person.

Seaway officials, in an emailed statement, said they would continue be a part of the community, but did not address the vacant seat issue.

“The St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation is an active member of the Massena Chamber of Commerce and that will continue. We have historically supported the community and will continue to be involved in local chamber initiatives,” wrote Nancy T. Alcalde, congressional and public relations director.

Removing a Seaway representative from the chamber’s board did not sit well with some board members and local officials.

Board President Susan E. Stiles said she didn’t understand the motive since part of the chamber’s mission was promoting tourism, and the Seaway was part of that tourism effort. Board member Miriam S. Catapano also wondered whether the Seaway officials were making the same decision in each community where they are located along the Seaway system.

“I’d send a letter and say, ‘What is the problem here?’” board member Sanford T. Cook suggested.

Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray also suggested a letter be drafted to Seaway officials, with a copy to Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, saying chamber officials were “shocked” that the Seaway no longer was willing to have a board member.

“It’s not that they’re not willing,” Mr. Gleason said. “Their legal counsel said they can’t.”

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