B y Derek Liebig
Handicapped accessibility, heating costs, roof repairs and the presence of mold were just a few of the questions local residents raised at last month’s town board meeting regarding the potential purchase of the Amory.
In response, Supervisor Richard “Geezer” Gordon proposed the creation of a committee to explore those issues and more.
Betty Newell, a member of the committee, said they continue to make strides but declined to discuss any specifics until they’ve had a chance to gather more information.
“Speculation may be news, but it isn’t helpful,” Newell said. “We have some things in motion and we’ll have some information available at the next meeting. “
She said the committee has scheduled appointments with a mold removal specialist to examine what would need to be done to clean up mold in the basement and a roofing expert is expected to inspect the roof.
Here are summaries of the situation with various aspects of the armory building.
The roof has been the subject of a great deal of speculation. At last month’s town board meeting, several members of the community expressed the belief that the roof needed to be replaced but few were able to give any specifics.
Rick Whiting, who worked at the building as a maintenance assistant, said work was done on the roof over the 90 foot tower five years ago, over the 60 foot tower six years, over the 30 foot tower 10 years ago and the roof over the rear entrance three years ago.
He also said work was done on the roof over the drill shed (the basketball court) in 1985 and other than the replacement of some shingles (he couldn’t state for certain how many) he believes the roof is “structurally sound.”
However, Eric Durr, Director of Public Affairs, Division of Military and Naval Affairs, said he spoke with someone in the department with knowledge of the Whitehall Armory who said that over the long term, the roof would need to be replaced.
Heating costs were another point of contention at last month’s meeting.
Some people expressed concern that heating costs could be prohibitive.
Whiting said they typically consumed 10,000 gallons of fuel oil every year and that doesn’t include the Fleet Maintenance Shop (the garage behind the Armory), which is less efficient because the building is not insulated.
According to figures provided by Heather Groll with the Office of General Services, fuel oil costs in the 2008 fiscal year (October 20 07 through September 2008) were $36,107.53; the 2009 fiscal year (October 2008 through September 2009) were $12, 015.46; and the 2010 fiscal year (October 2009 through September 20 10) were $5,884.30.
Heating costs associated with the Fleet Maintenance Shop were $18,696.43; $12, 310.44; and $18,646.62 over the same time periods.
Durr said the armory was vacated in August of 2009, which may explain the discrepancy in numbers between the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years.
Groll said some consideration has to be given to the future use of the building and the fluctuation of oil costs as they could impact heating costs.
Electric costs over the same time period were $9,846.18, $6.201.35 and $2,465.44 in the Armory. Electric costs were similar in the maintenance shop except in the 2010 fiscal year when expenses were approximately $5,000 more in the shop than the armory.
However in order to make any kind of determination the committee will need to compare those numbers to the heating and electric costs of buildings maintained by the village and the town.
Numbers for the village were not yet available, but numbers provided by the town reveal that the cost of heating the Canal Corp Visitors Center were $4,235.36 in 2010, while electric costs were $3,199.36.
The town also paid the village $297.86 for water and sewer rates, and were responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the building and grounds which were performed by a town employee.
Consideration also has to be given to the accessibility of the building. As it is currently constructed, the building does not have any handicapped accessibility.
Lisa MacSpadden, deputy secretary of State for Communications and Community Affairs with the Department of State said that at least one accessible entrance is required, but generally access to offices on upper floors is not required, although a space may have to be provided for the handicapped if they are unable to access services on upper floors that may be available to other residents.
Handicapped parking would also need to be provided.
When it comes to issues of fire safety, MacSpadden said most assembly occupancies require two means of entry or exit, including provisions for access to exit stairs (which may be required to separated by fire-resistant enclosures), and a path from the exit stairs to the exterior.
Exit signs, emergency lighting and portable fire extinguishers are required.
There are no minimum standards for the size of windows and toilet facilities are not required on each story, but must be located not more than one story above or below, and not more than 500 feet travel distance.
MacSpadden said Armories are classified as A-3 assembly occupancies and the use of the building as a community center would maintain that classification.
“Because there is no change is classification, the likely requirements may not be as stringent as they would be if the use of the building was changed to a different category,” she said.
However, reconfiguring spaces for different uses can potentially trigger more regulations.
Reconfiguring spaces could also trigger issues with asbestos and lead paint.
Durr said he believes the building contains asbestos given its age and lead paint is located underneath non-lead paint throughout the building.
Knock down a wall, or rip up a floor, and those materials could be released triggering an expensive removal process. However, so long as those materials aren’t disturbed, they don’t have to be removed.
Newell did confirm that the committee had spoken to authorities about the presence of a fuel tank that was buried on the property and were told that prior to its burial the tank was cleaned and the soil had been tested and found to be clean.
Whiting also dispelled fears of flooding in the basement saying the new grinder pump system that was installed several years ago has successfully prevented the back flow of water into the building.
He also said a new circulator was installed in 2009 and that the plumbing system was in good working order.
Before a decision can be made, a more thorough cost analysis of village and town properties will have to be conducted, something that the committee continues to work on. They will also need to consider any changes that may need to be made to building and how they fit into building codes, and the historic quality of the building.