W hen Skenesborough Volunteer Fire Company Chief Michael Putorti asked when the town expected to move forward with its plans, the response was, “tomorrow.”
And while the statement from Town Supervisor Richard “Geezer” Gordon was more of a joke than a fact, the Whitehall Town Board did end a four-year question by voting to move to the SVFC firehouse on Wednesday, Oct. 13.
“That’s where we’re going as of right now,” said Gordon after the vote was made. “I hope that we have made the right decision. I’m putting my faith in this vote.”
The board voted on each of the four possible sites for a new Town Hall – the National Guard Armory, Garden Time, the Troy Shirt factory and SVFC – separately, calling for a roll call vote on each.
After voting against the first three, the town board voted, 3-0, to move to the firehouse, with Councilmen Farrell Prefountaine and David Hollister joining Gordon in favor of the move, while Councilmen James Putorti and Richard LaChapelle abstained from voting.
Putorti, who serves with the SVFC, abstained for that reason, while LaChapelle felt the board did not have enough information to make a decision.
“I can’t vote,” said LaChapelle. “I really don’t know what I want to do until we have all of the facts. I don’t think that we are ready yet.”
“How long are we going to put this off?” asked Gordon. “We need to make a decision at some point and we always put it on the back burner.”
“We don’t have the facts we need,” replied LaChapelle. “Let’s get the facts and do this the right way. What’s the hurry?”
“What’s the hurry,” responded Gordon. “They’ve (the New York State Canal Corp.) has been on us for the last four years to get out of here.”
With the SVFC offer, the town would receive ownership of the building and use of the large multi-purpose facility for office, courtroom and other space, while the fire company would continue to use and maintain the meeting room and the truck bays.
“Everything can fit in there,” said Tony Scrimo, who was a member of the committee that looked at potential sites for a new Town Hall when the issue first came up four years ago.
The agreement also has the town paying $20,000 a year to the SVFC until a joint fire district is created, which would allow the fire companies to set their own budget and tax levy.
The payments to the company would be capped, however, at $150,000. That would mean that the least amount the town would pay to the company would be $20,000 and the most would be $150,000 regardless of the creation of a joint fire district or not.
“What has to be remembered though is that these are two separate issues,” said Scrimo. “The town needs to move, but the fire district is not part of that decision.”
Village Trustee Kenneth Bartholomew added that he did not see a problem with the move as far as the village was concerned.
“We have already agreed that if the town wanted to move there, we would change the deed to make sure that it happened,” said Bartholomew.
The town board first voted on the armory property, after Gordon said members of the town board had toured the facility the week prior.
LaChapelle moved that the town not take the property, saying that it would be “a money pit.” Hollister seconded the motion, with all five members voting in favor of not moving to the armory.
“It’s up for grabs, then,” said Gordon.
Hollister then made the motion for the town not to move to the Troy Shirt factory, Prefountaine seconded the motion, with four members voting in favor of not going to the factory with LaChapelle abstaining from the vote.
LaChapelle then motioned that the two move to the Garden Time property, with Hollister seconding the motion “so we can vote on it.”
LaChapelle and Gordon voted in favor of the move, while Prefountaine, Hollister and Putorti voted to defeat the motion, leading to the successful vote to move to the fire company.