T he town has finalized an agreement that will ensure the Skenesborough Canalside Park and Visitor’s Center will remain open.
At last week’s monthly meeting the board voted to continue basic maintenance of the building and grounds.
“We will continue to operate the park in the same manner we did before we moved in,” said George Armstrong, town supervisor.
The vote passed 3-1 with councilman Richard LaChapelle voting in favor of returning responsibility for the park to the state. Councilman David Hollister was absent and did not vote.
The park and visitors center is owned by the New York State Canal Corp. and has served as the de facto town hall since 2006. But with officials preparing to move into the former Skenesborough firehouse there was some question as to what would become of the park.
The town has a contractual agreement to maintain the property but can void that agreement at any time by notifying the state that it no longer wishes to care for it. But Armstrong said last month he wasn’t sure the state would care for the property to the same extent as the town has.
He said the possibility of the park not received the same care and the town potentially losing its authority to hold traditional community events were too great a risk to take.
LaChapelle said he doesn’t believe the state would close the park.
The cost to maintain the park and visitors center has been estimated at $20,000 per year, but officials believe once the town hall is relocated, those costs will go down.
The town hopes to further mitigate those costs by renting out the park for events and activities and the board agreed to a contract with local resident Donna Filomio to promote and organize those events.
Armstrong said Filomio has an extensive background as an event organizer.
She will not receive any salary or benefits, but will make 25 percent of any profits gleaned from events, with the remainder being used by the town to pay for upkeep of the park.
In other matters regarding the park, Armstrong said he has been in contact with officials from the Canal Corp. about the possibility of replacing wooden balusters around the pavilion with steel.
On Sept. 7 a number of the wooden balusters were broken and graffiti was scribbled around the interior of the pavilion.
It’s hoped that the steel balusters would deter some of the vandalism.
The Whitehall Police Department continues to investigate the latest incident.
Armstrong said the renovations to the former Skenesborough firehouse are continuing and a security and fire alarm system and “change of use” certificate remain the biggest holdups.
To date, the former lounge area has been converted into an office area and the southernmost portion of the building has been converted into a meeting room. A handicap accessible bathroom, which is required before any public meetings can be held, has been completed.
Once the fire alarm system is installed, which may happen as early as this week, the county will inspect the building before it issues any “change of use” certificate.
Officials expect to be in the building by next month.
Matt Doheny, who is running against Democratic incumbent Bill Owens for the 23rd Congressional district, will visit Whitehall tomorrow.
He is expected to meet with local officials and tour Commonwealth Plywood, and if time permits, stop at the American Legion Post 83 fish fry dinner.