Ancram still out in the cold on new highway garage

ANCRAM–The first day of summer rolled around earlier this week, which means winter is only six months away.

The temperature was in the 20s on a sunny Saturday morning in January 2008 when Town Supervisor Thomas Dias called an emergency meeting of the Town Board at the town highway garage to show the public the poor conditions the Highway Department had been working under for years. His stated goal at that time was not to allow the highway crew to go through another winter with no heated place to work on plow trucks when they broke down.

A year and a half later another winter has passed, the warm weather building season is well under way and that goal still seems pretty far off.

There was a four-month interruption in the board’s efforts to address the matter after three board members suddenly resigned last August and a new board didn’t take office until January. So far, the board has considered several ideas, but none has been endorsed by the board or put before voters for approval. And it’s not clear how long would it take for a new or renovated facility to be ready. The process continued this month with several more options stirred into the mix at the June 18 Town Board meeting.

It appears that the proposal recommended to the Town Board a year ago by the committee appointed to come up with a solution to the highway garage problem is rapidly losing support. The committee recommended that the town buy 12 acres and an existing 11,480 square-foot building on Roche Lane from Robert Mathews for $750,000 and remodel the site for a total project cost estimated at various times from $940,000 to $1.2 million, with and without a salt shed.

That idea was vehemently opposed by the Ancram Concerned Citizens group. Mike Citrin, who is often the group’s spokesman, told The Columbia Paper that he commissioned an independent appraisal of the property, which came in substantially lower than Mr. Mathews’ $750,000 asking price. Mr. Citrin would not name the Poughkeepsie firm that did the appraisal, but said the bottom line reached by the appraiser was $250,000.

He said his appraiser visited the property as part of his evaluation, but did not go inside the building. The appraiser did have photographs and a description of the building interior to work from, according to Mr. Citrin.

Mr. Citrin said that he brought the appraisal to the attention of Supervisor Dias, and last March the Town Board allocated up to $2,000 for its own appraisal of the Mathews property and an engineering report on the town’s existing facilities. In April James Santemeterio of Concra Appraisal Associates in Hudson wrote to Supervisor Dias to tell him that after reviewing the appraisal paid for by the Ancram Concerned Citizens he “would most likely reach a similar conclusion” if he were to perform an appraisal of the property.

“It is my professional opinion that the $750,000 asking price for it is most likely two to three times more than the actual market value,” wrote Mr. Santemeterio, who then “respectfully” declined Mr. Dias’ request to do an appraisal of the property.

At the May 21 Town Board meeting, Mr. Citrin asked Mr. Dias to read the Concra Appraisal Associates’ letter into the minutes.

According to the minutes of that meeting, Mr. Dias first said he had not received the letter declining to do the appraisal, then later said that after declining to do the appraisal the Concra firm said it would do the appraisal. Mr. Dias said he was waiting for the written report.

At the board’s May 4 workshop meeting, however, Deputy Supervisor Donna Hoyt, who ran the meeting because Mr. Dias was ill, announced that the Concra appraisal had come in at between $300,000 and $350,000, according to the meeting minutes.

At the June 18 meeting, Mr. Dias said he had still not received a written appraisal report from Concra.

Highway Superintendent James MacArthur, who was asked to provide the board with “quotes” for a building and salt storage shed that met his department’s requirements, told the board that Lawrence D. Coon and Son, a Ghent contractor, could erect a 100-by-80-foot pole barn on a slab for $181,000 at the existing town garage property.

He also presented a $120,000 estimate for plumbing, radiant heat, a propane furnace, R-38 ceiling insulation and R-19 insulation in 16-foot-high walls. The $301,000 total estimate is for a building not finished on the inside. Mr. MacArthur told The Columbia Paper that the highway crew would do the inside finishing work to save the town some money.

A salt shed made by Cover All Quick Structures would cost the town an added $106,000, according to Mr. MacArthur’s information.

Near the end of the June meeting Mr. Dias read a letter from Mr. Mathews in which Mr. Mathews acknowledged “tougher economic times” and offered the town four new proposals for how it could purchase or lease his property.

Mr. Mathews said he would reduce his price on the building with 10 to 12 acres to $650,000. He also offered the town a land-only option at a cost of $60,000 for 5 acres.

Town attorney Jason Shaw called Mr. Mathews’ new proposals “a Chinese menu” and said, “there are major issues with all of them.”

Mr. Shaw advised the board to wait to get the appraisal from the Concra firm before being steered “in a direction to consider one or any” of the new proposals.

Mr. Dias could not be reached by phone or email prior to press deadline, so The Columbia Paper could not learn whether he had received the Concra appraisal.

To contact Diane Valden email

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