Could the town of Whitehall be moving down the street?
Members of the town board talked about starting negotiations with the Skenesborough Volunteer Fire Company about moving their town offices into the firehouse at their April 8 regular board meeting.
“You can have all three rooms as long as you support the fire department,” said Skenesborough chief Jim Martell.
“What we were looking at was a 59’-by-29’ area that would be about 1,700-square feet,” said town councilman Farrell Prefountaine. “We talked to the fire department and they came out with a figure around $40,000.”
Prefountaine and town councilman David Waters made the initial contact with the fire company, and reported their findings back to the board at the meeting.
“The place is ideal and it would not take much to move us there,” said Waters. “The big issue is money.”
“I’ll tell you off the top of my head that my figure is $20,000,” said town supervisor Vernon Scribner. “We are getting a town hall and you are getting a fire service out of that. The fact is that we do have to answer to the taxpayers, and $40,000 is a bug number.”
“Not that I always agree with Vernon, but he is right and we do need to answer to the taxpayers,” said Waters.
Scribner said that he had looked into whether or not the town and fire company could get funding to help with the consolidation of the town offices and fire house, but that Little’s office reported back to him that they were not eligible.
“She said that it would not be available because they are a volunteer entity,” said Scribner. “You would have to consolidate between two municipal organizations.”
Martell said that he was open to letting the town into the fire house for a price of $20,000.
“If you write a check for $20,000, you can have your town hall there tomorrow,” said Martell. “We could then negotiate for next year and by then we could put everything together. It could be a temporary residence until you make your final decision.”
Scribner said that as far as he was concerned, any move would be made only after a final decision was made.
“I would like to look more at making sure that we had a long term deal in place before we make a move,” said Scribner. “I would like to look at three years and hash out how much we would pay per year and have you calculate how much you could use for fire services and then how much we would pay of that for the use of so many square feet.”
Scribner did say that he was agreeable with the offer.
“$20,000 is realistic,” he said. “I think the best course is for you guys to keep talking and working out some more of the numbers.”
“I say that you’re going to make a decision on this board by next month,” said Prefountaine. “I want to go to the firehouse, but I want to do it right. My thought would be that anyone who wants to have input on this should be here next month. Even if there was a decision tonight, I would still want to hold it over a month.”
Either way, Waters said that the time to move was at hand.
“It has really strongly been said that we should get out of here,” said Waters. “I talked to people at the state (Department of Transportation) and once we are gone, they said that they would be up here once a week to take care of the grounds.”
“If we can’t use the place, then I don’t want to take care of it,” said councilman David Hollister.
“My opinion is if we are out of here, we should turn it back over to the state,” said councilman Jim Putorti. “I don’t believe that we should maintain it once we are gone.”
Putorti did not comment on a potential move to the Skenesborough firehouse since he also serves as the president of the company and a town councilman.
The town is looking to move out of the Pavilion at the Skenesborough Canal Park after last month’s meeting with Canal Corporation Executive Director Carmella Mantello, state senator Elizabeth “Betty” O.C. Little and state assemblyman Tony Jordan.
“Betty and Tony thanked me for inviting them to that meeting and they are going to be pursuing this,” said Scribner.
Little and Jordan had asked Mantello if they could meet with the Canal Recreationway Committee, and advisory board to the New York State Canal Corporation, to further the discussion about the town possibly staying at the Pavilion. Mantello discussed the topic at the March 31 meeting of the CRC, where it was decided that there was no need for a meeting with the duo of state representatives