T he long search for a town hall may be coming to an end.
After flirting with the Armory and more recently, the former Garden Time building just outside the village on Route 4, the town is once again considering a move to the Skenesborough Volunteer Fire Company building.
“I have every intention of moving to the Fire Company. I want to go there and I want do it as soon as we can,” Supervisor Richard “Geezer” Gordon said at last week’s monthly town board meeting.
And they may not be moving alone.
Gordon said he has spoke with village officials about the potential of sharing the building with them.
Although there’s a lot of work and planning that would need to be done for that to happen, Gordon said he envisions the building housing several local agencies.
“Eventually, not right off the bat, I want everything there. The town, village, courts and police,” he said.
In the short-term, only the town offices would move, and that could happen sooner than later.
“I would like to have the August meeting in the fire company,” Gordon said.
Members of the SVFC met Tuesday evening to make a few changes in the language of the contract, but as far as town councilman and SVFC member Jim Putorti was concerned, it’s essentially a done deal.
“There’s been no change in the fire company’s proposal. If the town signs the contract, they can move in,” he said.
The board passed a resolution on Oct. 13 of last year to move the town offices to the firehouse.
In the agreement, 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.
In exchange, the town would pay the fire department $20,000 a year. That amount was be capped at $150,000.
However, the agreement fell apart over concerns about a reverter clause in the deed.
Under the deed, the property would revert back to the village if the company were to no longer exist. And although the village agreed last October to change the clause so that it would revert to the town, the village in turn requested that the property revert back to them if the town were to ever leave the building.
Since that time, things have changed.
For one, the Skenesborough Volunteer Fire Company has been considering consolidating their department with the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company.
Tony Scrimo asked at Putorti at last week’s meeting if that would actually happen.
“I think it has to happen. Things are in the works. Both organizations (SVFC and WVFC) are moving in that direction, but it’s going to take awhile. We have to inventory everything in that building,” he replied.
When the departments are combined, they would create a joint fire district (a request that has already been submitted to the town and village).
And, according to Gordon, the village is expected to address the reveter clause, which presumably wouldn’t be as much of an entanglement if both government entities were sharing the building.
If the building were to house multiple agencies, there’s some remodeling that would have to be done to the inside of the building.
A court room and at least several offices would have to be created first. When the building was first identified as the potential location of the town offices last year, an engineer was brought in to draw up a blue print of what the building would eventually look like and its believed those blue prints would still be applicable to the current plans that have been presented.
Gordon also expressed the idea of looking for grant money that may be available to help for those renovations, specifically in regard to court rooms.
The idea to move to the Skenesborough Fire Company comes only a few weeks after Gordon made a formal offer on the former Garden Time building.
At the time it appeared he had the support of at least some of the board and the seller seemed willing to accept his offer ($200,000), but the pull of the fire department was too strong.
Gordon said there was a desire to remain in a more centralized location within the district and there were concerns over how much money they were going to have to invest in the cellar to make it usable.
“In the end, this is better for everyone,” he said.
The vacant Armory building had also been considered but was determined to be too costly.
The town has been without a home since moving out of the site of City, Steak and Seafood more than five years ago. They have occupied the New York State Canal Corporations Visitors’ Center since 2006, but the agency has expressed their wish to have the building back.
One of Gordon’s primary goals has been to find a new room for the town, something that may finally be within his grasp.
“It would be a huge load off my shoulders,” Gordon said.