The Village Board believes the Whitehall Police Department should have jurisdiction at Whitehall High School.
Trustee Ken Bartholomew proposed and fellow board members agreed Tuesday night that village police should have access to Whitehall Central School, if it can be legally done.
Whitehall Central School is located on Buckley Road outside village limits. The school system legally lies within the jurisdiction of Washington County Sheriff’s Office and state police.
But in recent years, the school system has come to rely more and more on visits from village police, the board members agreed.
As Trustee Walt Sandford put it, “We are the face at the school in times of trouble. You would not stand by if there were a tragedy.”
The village police presence at the school, however, is more symbolic than legal, Bartholomew explained. To give village police legal jurisdiction on school grounds, Bartholomew proposed annexing Buckley Road, and part of Route 4, if need be.
Road annexation would give village police legal authority at the school and liability protection for any police actions taken at the two school buildings, elementary and secondary, Bartholomew said.
He conceded that it was a complicated proposal that would have to be reviewed by Village Attorney Erika Sellar Ryan, since it involves “three governmental entities,” namely town, village and county.
Bartholomew stressed that his proposal is not a move to increase the village tax base. The two roads, Buckley Road and a small stretch of Route 4, would be the only property annexed so that village police would have, in law, both authority and liability protection on school grounds, Bartholomew said.
In the meantime, Bartholomew said that on his own initiative, he would approach retiring Superintendent James Watson about his giving village police the same computer entry cards used by school personnel, enabling police to have quicker access to the inside of either building.
No formal vote was taken on the informal proposal; instead, the board members agreed that the proposal should be referred to the village attorney for close study. Mayor Pete Telisky, for example, indicated that just annexing Buckley Road probably would not give village police legal access.
“The school property has to be contiguous to the village,” Telisky said; in other words, part of Route 4 would also have to be annexed to give the village a clear legal roadway to the school.
Board weighs in on demolished or dilapidated properties
In an entirely separate matter, the village board weighed in on the Flint E. Stone and Adams Family Properties dispute. Flint E. Stone owns the rubble left from the old Chase Building. The Adams Family owns the dilapidated, abandoned and possibly unsafe “flat iron” building. Nearly half a mile of Main Street separates the rubble from the “flat iron” building.
Mayor Telisky reported that the village board had learned that Stone might not be the rubble’s sole owner. Telisky said Charles Friedman has a financial stake in the debris. Telisky authorized Attorney Ryan to inform Friedman by letter that he, too, could face legal action and financial penalties if he did not materially assist Stone in entirely removing the Main Street rubble.
The principals of Adams Family Properties, meanwhile, are Carl Adams and John T. Adams. Telisky reported that Attorney Ryan had located a Vermont process server who could be used to serve papers on the two men, both Fair Haven residents. Washington County Code Enforcement has sent the Adams Family a certified, Sept. 11 letter ordering them to fix the numerous problems at the “flat iron” building or tear it down. Village Code Enforcement Officer Gary Bennett has openly stated that Adams Family Properties will most likely use any grace period as a stall tactic. Telisky made it clear that the Vermont process server would make it harder for Adams Family Properties to avoid or delay legal prosecution.
Signs On to Short Sale
In its opening minutes, the board agreed to grant Joseph Austin of Queensbury a “limited release” on property he intends to purchase on a short sale from Gorenn Properties, a limited liability company controlled by Kevin Gordon. The release states that the village will not sue or foreclose on Austin for any back taxes or water bills left unpaid on the property, located at 26 Gilmore Street.
Austin’s realtor, Bethe Reynolds, and his Whitehall Attorney, Harold Nicholson, both assured the board that Austin intended to pay off in full any back water bills or taxes, roughly $3,000, as part of the “short sale” purchase from Gorenn Properties.
The board voted to grant Austin, owner of Austin Brothers Contracting, the limited release so that the Gilmore Street property would be placed back on the tax rolls.
“I plan to fix it up as a rental,” Austin said. “Wherever I buy, I don’t want to leave it as an eyesore.”
Austin cited properties he owns in Hudson Falls and Queensbury as visual proof of the quality of his renovation work.
“I’d like to see Whitehall come back as a thriving community,” Austin said, noting that his family was from the village.
The vote to grant the limited release was unanimous, but Mayor Telisky stated that this did not mean the village would automatically approve any other sales by Gorenn Company of its other properties, five of which are located within the village, Reynolds said.
The village has a “Confession of Judgment” against Gorenn involving roughly $30,000 in unpaid fees. Telisky said that matter would most likely have to be settled before the village board signed on again to any short sale of Gorenn properties.