Whitehall Town Board mulls over grant chase to fix recreation center

B y Lee Tugas

The Whitehall Town Board gave itself a month to decide if it wants to spend money to get money.

The money it would get, up to $400,000, would be used to rehabilitate the town Recreation Center.

The money it would spend would be about $9,500, on a grant application, a feasibility analysis and architect’s cost estimate.

Scott LaMountain, project manager, for Shelter Planning and Development Inc. in Queensbury, outlined to the board the steps that would need to be taken to enter the state race for grant monies.

The monies for rehabilitating the recreation center would come from the state Office of Community Renewal in the form of a Community Block Grant through the federal department of Housing and Urban Development.

LaMountain said there was about $23 million state-wide for such rehabilitation projects, funneled now through the state’s Consolidated Funding Application Program. If the town applied for the grant, it would be based on the fact that the recreation center benefits those with low and moderate incomes.

Nevertheless, LaMountain frankly conceded that “public facilities projects were not funded in the past. I do not want to oversell this in any way,” he said.

Supporters state their case

The supporters of applying for the grant are Recreation Director Julie Egan, Councilwoman Stephanie Safka, and Whitehall resident Tammy Stevens, who attended the meeting in support of Egan and Safka.

Sakfa said use of the recreation center had increased dramatically, while its condition had steadily deteriorated over the years.

“Water runs into the building because a door is in the wrong place. Pipes are exposed. The two front doors are in horrible condition,” she added, letting in cold air in wintertime.

“Everyone involved in the recreation center wants to see it improved. We would like to pursue the grant,” Safka said.

Hollister skeptical

Probably the biggest sticking point –– more than the gamble of the grant application process itself –– is the fact that if the grant were approved, the workers’ pay scale would be set at prevailing wage.

The mood of the skeptics on the board was summed up by Councilman Dave Hollister.

“All I know is with grants you throw money to the wind. You spend $4 to get $1. Our chances are slim,” Hollister said.

Although each board member expressed desire to fix the center in whole or in part, no consensus could be reached on whether or not to take the plunge and apply for a grant.

Instead, the board agreed to study the matter as individuals over the next month, and make a decision, yes or no, at the next board meeting in March.

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