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By Jay Mullen

Four members of the community appeared in front of the Whitehall Town Board to express concerns and frustration with the former Budget Inn turned Whitehall Studios on U.S. Route 4.

Appearing at the board meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 19, were Tom Trepanier, his tenant Joanna (last name unknown) and Everett and Vicky Mattison.

“I’m a patient man,” Trepanier said. “In the last month there have been so many scenes of police cars and problems at that motel, more than I’ve seen in the 12 years I’ve been here.”

He said he has one tenant who is leaving because of the recent events at the property.

Police scenes, garbage being thrown around and ending up on Trepanier’s property and harassment from those living at Whitehall Studios have something to do with that.

“They hang out outside and just throw cups and bottles and everything all over the place,” Trepanier said.

Joanna walks around the property with garbage bags picking up what is left by those residents.

“It’s an everyday thing,” she said. “The other morning I walked out and stepped on a Frito bag.”

Trepanier said that there is no one taking care of the property and management is lacking.

He said there are plenty of violations that the board is aware of coming from the property.

“It’s gotta come to an end now,” he said, “this is just getting ridiculous.”

Trepanier asked the board about the nuisance law that was passed last year. He said that if the town won’t enforce the rules then he will have to sue.

“Is it being enforced? Is anyone doing anything about it?” he asked.

“The law is easy to enforce, it’s the information you have to get to enforce it,” said supervisor John Rozell in response.

Rozell said the town has to deal with two different agencies: The Washington County Sheriff’s Office and New York State Police.

He said that it is much easier to get the info from the sheriff’s office but State Police reports must be sent to Albany first, making it a long process.

Everett and Vicky Mattison own Mattison’s Sports Shop next door to Whitehall Studios. Everett pleaded with the board saying that there is enough there to take action.

“There’s more than enough agencies, there’s more than enough information, and time is really running out.” he said. “Our business is failing because of it.”

David Brown purchased the property that is now Whitehall Studios about seven months ago.

He is putting money into fixing up the place.

“Since purchasing I’ve invested a quarter of a million dollars,” he said in a phone call after the meeting.

The investment went towards rehabilitation to the property. He said that they are about 60% done with fixing it up.

Although he is putting a lot of money into the property, Trepanier said that he wants to see results, not money.

“Listen, it’s great that you’ve put money into the building but that’s not the problem. The problem is getting the right tenants in the building,” he said.

Joanna brought up a Facebook comment from Brown where he said he purchased the property as an investment.

She thinks he is in it for the money, not the community.

“He’s not interested in what Whitehall can offer him. He’s interested in how much revenue he can make on that building no matter what it takes,” she said.

Whitehall supervisor John Rozell

“I agree with you 100%,” Rozell responded.

But Brown said that could not be further from the truth.

“It is 100% true that I purchased this property as an investment to generate income. But the safety of my guests surpasses revenue,” he said.

He said that he goes by a safety first, revenue second basis.

Brown was homeless when he first moved to upstate New York 12 years ago. He wants to provide affordable housing for good people.

“This hits home for me,” he said.

Trepanier said that the issue isn’t the people that were there before, it is the people that Brown is bringing in now.

“If he’s trying to turn it around why would he let these drug addicts and others come in?” he asked the board.

Vicky Mattison said that she wants something done about it. People are going to want to leave the town because of it.

“It makes the town look bad,” she said. “It makes you not want to live here.”

Brown said that they are not allowing bad people to rent from his property.

“I’m doing absolutely everything in my power and my legal team’s power to remove the riff raff from the property,” he said. “We are not accepting felons, we are not accepting sex offenders, we are not accepting drunks. We want good hardworking people, elderly people and disabled.”

Brown said that he hasn’t allowed Washington county to send anyone to the property, and he is doing all that he can to get rid of the bad people currently living there. He says that he has three or four guests remaining who are “not so great people.”

He said that he has tried to contact the Washington County district attorney, but he and his legal team have not heard anything back. Brown keeps getting blowback from police about evicting residents.

He said that the police have threatened to arrest management for conducting legal lockouts.

“To be honest with you I’m up against the wall,” he said.

Trepanier asked the board what they can do to proceed with the nuisance law action.

Rozell made a motion to proceed with the nuisance law action against Whitehall Studios, which was seconded by board member Tim Kingsley, and it was approved unanimously.

Brown said in a later interview that there is nothing he can do about the guests he is not allowed to evict because of the blowback from law enforcement.

He wants a solution to the problem as well.

“When they come up with a solution rather than criticism please feel free to let me know,” he said.

The community members said that they would follow up with the board about this issue at next month’s meeting.



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