Feb 02, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Skaneateles Village Board of Trustees met with their advising architect Andrew Ramsgard this week to discuss exactly how to move beyond talk and into the preliminary planning stages in the Fennell Street fire station reuse project.
“This is a chance for the board to talk to Andy and expand on our conceptual plan [for the project],” said Mayor Marty Hubbard at the Jan. 31 operations meeting.
After nearly two hours of discussion, the board agreed to task Ramsgard with drawing up a proposal for his anticipated architectural work to renovate the old Fennell Street fire station and also agreed on how to put the current village office building up for sale. No formal actions or votes were taken by the board, however, everything is still “just talk” at this stage, Hubbard said.
But it was not a quick and simple meeting, and two village residents offered their own input to the board on how and if the project should even proceed.
The board determined at the beginning of the year to sell the current village offices on East Genesee Street, use the profit to renovate the old firehouse on Fennell Street and move the village offices and the village police department into the renewed structure, if feasible.
The board initially broached the subject of moving village hall at a Jan. 9 operations meeting, at which Ramsgard reviewed the old firehouse structure and presented a preliminary fire station renovation idea. That plan would consist of three stages: renovate the building interior first, the exterior second and the parking lot and landscape third.
The Jan. 31 meeting consisted of two major discussion points: if and when the streetscape for the Fennell Street fire department lot should be renovated, and how to proceed on the project without wasting taxpayer money if the entire idea comes to nothing.
“If we can’t do this thing right there’s no point in doing it,” said Trustee Marc Angellilo, voicing a sentiment that every member of the village board reiterated at least once each during the meeting.
Ramsgard said phase one of the proposed project was “very clear” to him: all renovation work was to be interior to the old fire station building, any exterior work would be only what was “minimally intrusive” such as new doors, windows, roof fixes and any exterior openings for a new HVAC system.
This discussion led to a conversation about if, how and when the project would renovate the streetscape — or “curb appeal” — of the lot.
“We have to do a treatment of the street side,” said Trustee Sue Jones. “I just don’t think we can leave it all like that.” She said the board should do whatever it can afford to do, or at least determine and include in future village budgets to set aside funds to pay for the curbside renovations so village residents are assured that it will be done.
Trustee John Cromp said “more than a few” village residents have told him they were more concerned with the look of the Fennell Street lot frontage than the outside appearance of the fire station for this project. “You’d be surprised at the number of people who have tuned into that,” said Cromp, who has been speaking to numerous residents in recent weeks as he has gone door-to-door seeking signatures to allow him to run for reelection this March.
Cromp said the majority of the residents he spoke to were in favor of the overall project.
Village resident and municipal board member Alan Dolmatch cautioned the board that any changes to the fire station parking lot must be done in coordination with the site’s neighbors and within the bounds of current U.S. Postal service easements on the fire station property. He said some of the neighbors, such as the owners of Tops, have been unwilling in the past to redefine easements and probably would be unwilling again.
Village resident and architect Robert Eggleston said the entire proposed Fennell Street project needs to be considered in how it helps the village “invest” in the rejuvenation of the Fennell Street corridor and how it fits into the village Comprehensive Plan. He warned against doing a “regrettable” upgrade to the building and the site for the short term, but not making any lasting and long-term improvements.
The trustees all agreed that it was difficult to know how and when the lot’s streetscape could be improved without knowing if they could sell the current village office building and for what price. This led to a long discussion which Trustee Mary Sennett summed up as a “chicken and egg” question for the board: they don’t know how much money they have to spend on the fire station renovation until they sell the current village hall, but they can’t sell the current village hall unless they know the cost of the fire station renovations and therefore how much money they need to sell the current village hall for.
Realtor and former village Trustee Mark Roney was at the meeting at the board’s invitation to offer suggestions on how best to sell the current village office building. He suggested a company with commercial real estate experience be hired to list the property.
Hubbard said he and Roney talked about having the listing agent, probably a marketing firm, receive a flat fee for its work, rather than a commission percentage, in order to save taxpayer money. They also suggested a commission percentage — probably 3 percent — for the selling agent, which would be an incentive to sell the building for the highest possible price.
The trustees all agreed they were “comfortable” with the proposed real estate suggestions concerning selling the current village hall building; and they also agreed to have Ramsgard draw up a proposal for his fees and hours necessary to take on the fire station renovation project.
Until the board receives and ultimately approves proposals for the real estate and architectural work, this Fennell Street reuse project is still only in the discussion stages.
The next village board meeting is Thursday, Feb. 9, at which the trustees hope Ramsgard’s proposal may be submitted and more discussion and information on the project will be available.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.