B y Derek Liebig
The committee charged with examining the costs of the town buying and renovating the Whitehall Amory presented its preliminary findings during the Town Board’s monthly meeting last Wednesday.
Betty Newell , a member of the committee, spelled out what the group determined to be the pros and cons of the building and presented their recommendations.
Although the committee was able to discover a great deal of information, they said the town and village need to examine the exact uses of the building and consult a professional about what would need to be done to the building to make it suitable for those uses before they could make an informed decision.
Among the pros were its location and the size of the lot on which it stands (two and a half acres), ample parking, a well maintained and monitored oil tank, internet capability, an Ansul fire alarm and Mahoney Notify Alarm system, dual water lines and storm protected windows.
The committee also praised the condition of the building.
Betty Newell said she spoke with Nancy Todd, an architectural historian who has examined many of New York’s Armories and was told that the Whitehall Amory was “one of the best kept and maintained armories she has seen.”
The committee also discovered that digital thermostats and a dual heating system were installed that make the process of heating the building much more efficient.
However, the cost to heat the building remains high.
Newell said the committee spoke with Champlain Coal and heating oil costs have increased 150 percent since 2008, the last time the Armory was occupied throughout the entire year.
Using that figure, they determined heating costs to be anywhere between $50,000 and $60,000 a year which “is on par with what the people in Oneonta (the site of another Armory) told us they use,” Newell said.
That figure represents the cost of the Armory alone, and not the garage, which the committee took off the table so they could focus solely on the building.
Not discussed at length, but included in the committee’s report was the discovery that much of the mold that was present in the basement could be abated by ventilation.
Among the cons were the building layout, which was described as “iffy,” the amount of sidewalk to maintain (1,500 feet), the lack of handicapped access, the requirement of a sprinkler system in the drill hall for any event that attracts greater than 100 persons, the potential need for a fire exit from the second floor and the possible modification of stairways to prevent a “chimney effect.”
Newell said she spoke with Richard Bennett with the Office of General Services and was told the building could be sold for as little as $1, if it meets the requirements for usage which include: parks and recreation, highway department, and mental health and hygiene.
If it were to be used as a municipal center, as proposed, the change would need to be approved by the state legislature.
Newell also said that by state law, the building could not house a police station and serve as a youth center or be host to youth related events because of New York State sex offender laws.
She said Ticonderoga has been trying to move their police station into the Amory, going as far as eliminating any interior entrances and exits to the basement where the police would be housed, but to date, have been rebuffed in their efforts.
Perhaps most important are the costs associated with the building. A cement handicapped ramp with a 54-inch rinse would cost approximately $60,000 (less if different materials were used), and that does not include a ramp for the basement which would be required if it was used for public spaces.
Maintenance costs have been estimated around $80,000 (excluding fuel costs) for the Armory in Oneonta and $60,000 for the Armory and garage in Ticonderoga.
The cost of an automatic double fire door with hardware is $2,500 and $1,600 for a single door. And the cost of insurance is $2.35 for every $1,000 of assessed value.
Newell said some grant money may be available for some projects, such as handicapped access.