Hello! Need Social Services? Check Aisle 3

GREENPORT — A scheme to move county offices, including the Department of Social Services, to the vacant former Walmart store on Fairview Avenue got a mixed reception at last Wednesday’s Town Board meeting.

Supervisor Edward Nabozny looked with favor on the idea, so long as “we’re covered for any loss of tax revenue.” The property currently pays about $85,000 in town, county and school taxes.

The Columbia County Capital Resource Corporation has a “verbal agreement” with Walmart to buy the 14.5-acre property — current asking price, $2.7 million. CRC would lease the property to the county, according to Ken Flood, the county’s economic development chief. The building comes with 650 lighted parking spaces and 125,000 square feet of space.

Resident Robert Pinkowski faulted county officials for not consulting the town about the plan: “They want to do it in Greenport, but Greenport’s the last to find out.”

Mr. Nabozny said the purchase is in “a very preliminary stage,” with nothing signed and many details still to be worked out.

Councilman Thomas Fleming called the Walmart property “a premier site” for the county’s use.

Meanwhile the former Ockawamick School in Claverack, which the county bought for more than $1.5 million in 2008 in hopes of moving the Department of Social Services and other county offices there, languishes all but empty, its painted trim peeling.

Public outcry led the Board of Supervisors to rethink the proposal to move DSS out of Hudson. The lease on the agency’s current 28,000-square-foot quarters on Railroad Avenue expires this coming June, and officials need to find a new site that affords at least 40,000 square feet.

The former Walmart store would more than meet that need, with plenty of room left for other county departments. According to Mr. Flood, these might include the Health and Mental Health departments, Department of Public Works offices, Youth Bureau/Stop DWI, Planning, Columbia Economic Development Corp., Office for the Aging, Probation and Public Defender.

If the plan goes ahead as envisioned, the Board of Supervisors, Payroll/Accounts Payable, Civil Service and Board of Elections would move to the relatively new county office building at 325 Columbia Street and the county would vacate its aging offices at 401 and 610 State Street, both high-maintenance former school buildings.

Also at the December meeting, the board:

*Learned that a Planet Fitness franchise may come to Fairview Plaza, to the former home of Fairview Transmission and, farther back in time, an Ames department store. Planning Board Chairman Don Alger said developers are to bring a site plan to his board’s meeting Thursday, December 28.

*Sent a proposed ordinance regulating parking of “oversized” vehicles on town streets back to attorney Sonia Van Bortel for fine tuning. The law was inspired by a situation in which a dump truck and a lawn-equipment trailer are parked across a street from each other, effectively blocking traffic. Councilmen and residents found the proposal vague as to campers, recreational vehicles, boats on trailers and such-like.

*Learned from Police Chief Kevin Marchetto that a DWI patrol on November 24 netted no drunk drivers but “found many designated drivers.”

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