Jan 17, 2014 Joe Genco Uncategorized
Prompted by a letter from Village Mayor Marty Hubbard this week, Skaneateles town officials said they will investigate the possibility of moving the town offices into the vacant space in the new village hall.
The letter, from Hubbard to Town Supervisor Mary Sennett dated Jan. 13, offers the space that used to be the truck bay area of the old fire hall as a possible future location for the town offices.
According to the letter the property would be given to the town essentially for free:
“The village could subdivide its property and deed the parcel on which the truck bays are located so that the town would own that portion of the property. The village would only ask for an easement to maintain our solar panels on the roof above the truck bays.”
Hubbard also wrote that the arrangement would be mutually beneficial as it would foster better town/ village cooperation and could help them get government efficiency grants in the future.
At the town board’s Jan. 16 meeting, Sennett said she was “very excited” about the offer, but that the town needs to determine the viability of the proposal and assess its needs, before discussing if they want to do it.
Board members stated that accessibility, safety and parking availability are all concerns with the town’s current location at 24 Jordan St.
Some residents are unable to make it to the offices and conference rooms on the second floor of the building, because they are only accessible by stairs.
Town Historian Beth Battle commented that, during the summer, she is often unable to find an available parking spot in the public lot and many residents are unable to visit her in her office because they are unable to get up the stairs.
Councilor Claire Robinson Howard said there are concerns about the safety and security of the building, particularly for town justice court.
Due to these issues, moving out of their current building could be a positive opportunity for the town and the community, Councilor Connie Brace said.
“As I look at this building I see a lot of inefficiencies upstairs, and I can see opportunities. I also see opportunities to return this building to the tax rolls and provide more continuity for retail environment on Jordan Street, that could be advantageous to the community,” Brace said.
Councilor Nancy Murray said that the town has been casually looking for a new location for its offices for years, due to the concerns about accessibility and safety. The board even did a study about eight years ago, under supervisor Phil Tierney, to investigate the possibility of moving into a shared building with the village, though at that time they found it would not be feasible, Muray said.
Brace, who is also an architect, recommended the board first hire a consultant, or enlist a volunteer, to do an assessment of the town’s space needs.
Sennett said that one of the first steps in the process of evaluating the town’s needs and the possibility of moving would be to get public input. She encouraged anyone with thoughts or concerns about the idea of the town moving, to send them to town hall or talk to a town board member.
Bill Pavlus, former town supervisor, provided the board with a written statement and spoke at the meeting to express concerns and skepticism about the town and village moving into the same building.
“What is the estimated cost of remodeling? What do you do with the upper level? Who repairs the flat roof overhead if the village has an easement on solar panels and [sic] create a leak in the flat roof?” Pavlus said in his statement.
At the village board’s Dec. 30 meeting, the trustees discussed the possibility of leasing, or selling, the vacant truck bays if it was determined the village didn’t need the space for storage. Though Sennett was still a trustee for that meeting, she said she did not know about the offer to the town until after she was out of that office.
The village government and police department moved into the former Skaneateles Fire Department building, 26 Fennell St., as renovations were completed in 2013.
When the village was initially planning to sell its old location at 42 E. Genesee St. and refurbish the old fire hall, Hubbard stated that the project would not be a collaborative effort with the town, though he did not rule out any future options.
“Whatever happens down the road will be an independent action. […] It is imperative that we run an independent path,” Hubbard said about the renovations in the Jan. 11, 2012 Skaneateles Press.
—Robinson Howard thanked the community for allowing her and Brace to attend a training course in Rochester given by the New York Association of Towns. The training was an informational program for newly elected town officers.
—The board approved a contract with the State Department of Environmental Conservation for the boat launch off of Route 41A. The four-year contract authorizes the town to have two attendants working at the launch during peak boating season. Newly added to the contract is a “carry-in carry-out” policy. The boat launch will no longer have any trash receptacles and boaters will be required to carry all trash off the property. The attendants will be asked to pick up litter, though if trash becomes an issue the town will consider revising the policy, Sennett said.
—Brace gave an update on recent town meetings concerning zoning laws. On Jan. 11 the town board met with the town planning and zoning boards to discuss how the zoning permit application process can be improved to better serve residents of the town.
“I think everybody is on the same page, and I think that’s the good news for the community” Brace said.
Brace also reported that she attended several recent meetings of the Comprehensive Plan Review Committee. The volunteer committee has started meeting on a weekly basis to complete its task of reviewing the “Goals, Objectives and Action Items” section of the town joint comprehensive plan. The committee hopes to complete its work and submit proposed revisions to the town, village and community by the end of February, Brace said.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.