B y Derek Liebig
The dormant Whitehall Armory may soon be given new life if Supervisor Richard “Geezer” Gordon has his way.
Gordon said Monday that he is going to propose the town obtain the armory.
“After many sleepless nights and a lot of soul searching about what to do, I decided we should go for it,” Gordon said.
He expects to make a proposal to the town board at the next town board meeting.
“I talked to the OGS. (Office of General Services) this morning (Monday), and if it goes and the board approves it, I’m taking it,” Gordon said.
Gordon said the Armory will be open to local residents from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, May 7.
“I want people to have a chance to look at it,” Gordon said.
The decision to go after the armory comes after several weeks of careful consideration.
He said the New York State Canal Corporation have been “on my case” about moving the town offices out of the building and expressed concern about what would become of the armory if it were to be put up to auction, at which point it could be purchased by anyone.
He said the building is an integral part of the Whitehall community and key to its future prosperity.
Gordon said he attended a Chamber of Commerce event last week and received a lot of positive feedback on the historic building.
“There was about 40 people there and I’d say about 30 of them were in favor of it,” he said.
Before any of Gordon’s plans can come to fruition he will need the support of the town board, which will be minus of one its members at next week’s meeting.
Councilman Farrell Prefountain is recovering from a medical procedure and isn’t expected to attend the meeting.
“I wish it was a full board but I don’t want to lose it (the Armory),” Gordon said.
Town board member Richard LaChapelle expressed some serious concerns about the project including cost and the possible presence of pollutants on the property that could increase expenses even more if the Department of Environmental Conservation mandated the site be cleaned.
Although the armory has sat vacant for over a year and a half, it’s been the center of much attention over the last several months.
Local businessman Richard Corsetti had explored the possibility of turning the armory into a non-profit cultural civic center however, nothing more has come of the idea.
And then last month, village and town officials toured the armory as they examined the potential uses of building.
Most of those who took the tour were impressed with the building but expressed some concern that it represented a project that may be too big.
“I’d like to do something but it may more than we can take on,” Mayor Peter Telisky said at the time.
The state Office of General Services is the current caretaker of the property but the town has the option to purchase the building for $1.
State law requires that at least 51 percent of the building be used as municipal offices.
Gordon said the town has already filed a letter of intent with OGS. to take the armory or have first refusal rights.
He also said any agreement between the town and OGS would include an Article 34 reverter clause that would permit the town to return the property to the state after a year if they were unable to find a suitable use for the building or if the project proved to be more costly than they could afford.
Heather Groll a spokesperson for OGS. said “it is their intention to work with the town” as they try and come to a decision.
If the town votes to take over the armory, Gordon expects to relocate the town offices as soon as they take possession.
The village and town courts may also make the move, pending approval by the village.
He said Mayor Telisky had expressed some interest but would need to weigh all the options and discuss with his board before any decision was made.
There may also be an opportunity for other organizations to use the armory as well, such as the police and recreation department.
The school has also expressed interest in the past in using the armory as a location to hold athletic practices during the winter months.
Gordon expects to put forth a motion to the town board to take ownership of the armory at the next town board meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11.