Firehouse move edges forward

T he town is treading cautiously as it continues to make progress on an anticipated move into the former Skenesborough Fire House.

The town board held an emergency meeting last Tuesday to review a village contract that would have turned ownership of the building over to the town, but held off on signing it at the advice of attorney Christian Morris.

On Feb. 21, the village Board of Trustees signed a contract that would have effectively turned over ownership of the building to the town but town Supervisor George Armstrong said Morris advised the town not to sign the contract because it made no mention of the now infamous “reverter clause.”

It’s believed the clause may be contained in some village documents and because it wasn’t explicitly addressed in the contract, it could become problematic in the future, Armstrong said.

The “reverter clause” stated that if the Skenesborough Volunteer Fire Company ever dissolved, ownership of the property would revert back to the village. The clause was a major sticking point for the town board members because they wanted outright ownership of the building.

But after Skenesborough dissolved, the village voted to remove the reverter clause to assist the town with an eventual move into the building.

The town would also like to complete an environmental site assessment of the property before proceeding and have contracted C.T. Male Associates of Latham to conduct a Phase I assessment later this month.

“We don’t want to sign it until C.T. Male does their study. We don’t think there are any problems, but we want to be sure,” said Armstrong.

The assessment will look for the presence of any hazardous substances or petroleum products that may have been released on the property in the past. The assessment typically includes a walkthrough by inspectors, interviews with subjects familiar with the site, a review of municipal records and historical information, and a review of neighboring properties.

The cost of the assessment is $1,900.

Former Skenesborough Volunteer Fire Company president Jim Putorti said he wasn’t aware of any problems that would be of concern, but the town is trying to do its due diligence before committing any financial resources to a move.

Armstrong said a move may take a while but anticipates the town eventually taking over the building.

He said once it does, it will begin the process of renovating the facility into separate offices.

At last week’s meeting, the board approved Darlene DeVoe applying for a local government efficiency grant on behalf of the town that, if approved, would provide funds to rehabilitate the building and transform it into offices.

Armstrong said the town could be eligible for up to $200,000. Because it is a 90-10 matching grant, the town would have to put up $20,000 of its own money.

The town should know by mid-May if its application was accepted.

It’s possible that offices for the town clerk and budget officer will be established in the firehouse later this summer, but that decision has yet to be finalized.

The town has been without offices since moving out of the current site of City, Steak and Seafood on Main Street several years ago and been in the Canal Corp. visitors’ center since.

Over the intervening years, the town has considered several locations as a potential town hall, including the Armory and Garden Time, before settling on the firehouse.

The board was given the option last week of temporarily moving into the former LaFlamme’s building owned by Brenda and Stan Woodruff on Main Street, but decided against such a move.

Once the attorney has reworded the contract on the former firehouse, the town is expected to sign it and turn it over to the village to review.

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