Apr 16, 2009 Ami Olson Uncategorized
It appears, at least for the time being, that Elbridge Town Supervisor Ken Bush’s $2.5 million request for stimulus money is still being considered.
Bush said he applied about a month ago for the funds through the New York State Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Cabinet Web site, which was set up to allow municipalities, organizations and private citizens to request money from the state’s share of the federal stimulus.
The $2.5 million would go towards construction of a shared court building and new state police headquarters that would provide court space for the towns of Camillus, Elbridge, Marcellus and Skaneateles, Bush said.
Still very much in the conceptual stage, the idea was not presented formally to the other town boards but was presented conversationally to the town supervisors, Bush said.
“They think is has merit but funding the facility is the problem,” he said.
He said he submitted his request in response to a push from the state to upgrade local court systems.
“Basically, some [Elbridge] board members’ feelings is, if the state wants it so bad, they need to step forward and help,” Bush said.
While the town has been dealing with space and renovation needs on its own, this was a good opportunity to address the same problems in neighboring towns while exploring a funding source other than the taxpayers.
“I thought a four-town cooperation ought to catch somebody’s attention,” Bush said.
Bush emphasized that the court building would be a shared space, not a consolidation of the four court systems.
The idea is to provide sufficient space to hold court — something three of the four towns do not currently have — along with separate office space for each town’s justices.
In addition, the building would include an adjoining state police headquarters to house Troop D. The towns of Elbridge, Marcellus and Skaneateles are patrolled by the state police and Onondaga County Sheriff’s.
The troop is currently located off of Route 5 in Elbridge, in a small ranch-style building that has not met their needs for some time.
The shared building would cut down on duplication and provide better service, Bush said.
The ideal location would be at Bennett’s Corners, which would put the building in a centralized area to the four municipalities but would require the purchase of land.
What’s the concensus?
So what do other town supervisors think of Bush’s idea?
“Because it fits into the desire to consolidate service, it’s a great request,” Marcellus Supervisor Dan Ross said. But if the funding should come through, there would be many aspects that would have to be explored before the town would be willing to commit to the project — like ongoing operating costs and scheduling conflicts among the four judicial systems.
Nonetheless, Ross thought the idea was worth considering, and if the state money did not become available it might be worth looking into other sources of funding.
In Camillus, town court is held in the Town Board meeting room, and while there is no lack of space in the room, “there are times when we collide,” Supervisor Mary Ann Coogan said.
Since Camillus has it’s own police department, the state police barracks would not necessarily benefit the town, but the centralized court building could be beneficial enough to look into the concept further.
But, like Ross, Coogan agreed that there is much more work to be done before committing to the project.
“We would need more facts and figures. You have to study these things,” Coogan said.
In Skaneateles, Supervisor Phil Tierney said he was not aware of Bush’s request for the money and so he was hesitant to comment on the concept.
“It could benefit the town — but this is the first I’ve heard of it,” Tierney said.
The future looks… hazy
At this point, no one is getting too excited about the concept or the possibility of it being funded with economic recovery grants.
Tens of thousands of requests have been made for the stimulus cash, and the Reinvestment Cabinet now has more than 800 pages of submissions to sort through and prioritize.
Further, the goal at both the state and federal levels is to spend the money as quickly as possible, pushing funding to the most “shovel-ready” projects.
Bush was quick to point out that his idea is just that — an idea. The land has not been purchased, the plans have not been drawn, and even the town boards that would be involved have not been formally presented with the concept.
But, it’s a novel idea — and one worth exploring, Bush said. He just hopes someone at the state level agrees.
“Whoever controls the stimulus money, I hope somebody looks at this and thinks this is a worthwhile project,” he said.