Mar 03, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
Skaneateles town officials weighed pros and cons, expressed opinions and discussed options for a possible relocation of the town offices at a work session held on Feb. 24.
At the meeting, the Town Board along with Town Justice Kathy Dell, Town Engineer Doug Wickman and Peter Wiles, who acted as a facilitator for the group, discussed issues with the current town hall and possible problems, or opportunities, associated with relocating to a new location.
The subject, which has been discussed multiple times in recent weeks, was brought before the board as a result of a letter sent to the town by Village Mayor Marty Hubbard dated Jan. 13. In the letter, Hubbard offers to deed the vacant truck bay area of village hall to the town for free so they can renovate it to be the new town offices. After sitting vacant for several years, the former fire hall was converted into the new village office and village police headquarters last year.
Moving town hall has been on the minds of town board members for years due to accessibility and safety and security issues with the current building, 24 Jordan St. The board also discussed other locations to where it could potentially move town hall.
Though not totally opposed to the idea of moving into the village building, Councilors Jim Greenfield and Nancy Murray expressed concern and skepticism about the idea of moving into the village building.
Board members also said that it would have been easier to plan if the village had made its offer before it did the renovations to the fire hall.
“It’s like they got the gravy and we’re getting the bones, that’s what it looks like right now,” Greenfield said.
When asked about any potential issues in drawing up an agreement between the two municipalities, Town Attorney Tom Taylor said it would be possible, but “the devil is in the details,” regarding issues such as long-term maintenance and the needed easement for the village’s solar panels.
Murray also brought up the idea of building a new town hall at 75 Fennell St., a property already owned by the town.
“If we are moving why not start from scratch and build something that would be more in keeping with the character of the village? Such as something like a colonial building, all on one floor, and start anew so we don’t have to put money into repairs,” she said.
75 Fennell St. was once home to the town highway department, and later the town water department, before becoming home to storage and workshop space for the parks department and Laker Limo.
The property is still within the village, but is also closer to the town’s northern hamlets, which could help better connect those residents to the village and avoid congestion, Councilor Connie Brace said.
Town Supervisor Mary Sennett countered that idea by mentioning that cohabitation of a building with the village could lead to future grant money and make a potential consolidation easier on future generations.
“It’s very clear that the county and the state are looking for municipalities to cooperate. Co-location is something that would be very attractive and would yield us funding. Beyond that, I think … at some point our government is going to mandate consolidation,” she said. “If we’re going to invest in space for future generations, I think we have to think about the fact that, if we go to 75 Fennell St., are we setting up future generations for another expense for shared facilities?”
Town Justice Katherine Dell spoke about the current situation with the town’s court facilities. In the current town hall, the main meeting room is also used for court, which can get cramped for jury trials and jury selection, she said.
The town hall also needs to have the space available for juries, detainees (in some cases), attorneys and witnesses to be separated, though this is something that is managed without too many problems currently, she said.
Brace suggested that the town could look into having a court facility that is separate from the rest of the town offices or look into sharing space in the former police building, located behind village hall, which the village may use as a spare meeting space.
Though the work session was a non-voting meeting, Brace suggested the board, in the near future, pay to bring in experts to determine the space needs of the town and the feasibility of a move to the village hall, and other possible locations.
Once the town has the information it needs to make a decision, the deciding factor should be finances, Greenfield said.
“It’s got to be a dollars and cents thing to me.”
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.