Off to old big box before snow flies

County mulls plan for DSS to move by end of year

HUDSON–The county Board of Supervisors is considering an option for accelerating its previously announced plan to move county offices to the old Walmart building in Greenport, relocating only the Department of Social Services to that site and occupying about only about a quarter of the space by the end of this year.

Based on estimates from the county and private companies, the county would spend around $6 million to purchase the 125,000-square-foot building and make immediate repairs and alterations. Needed repairs, including a new roof and heating and air conditioning, would be postponed.

The plan was outlined in a memo circulated last week to supervisors from Ancram Supervisor Arthur Bassin (D), a member of what he described as “an informal architectural review subcommittee” charged with looking into the costs of the project. Mr. Bassin said in his memo that based on the estimated costs of the move, it “will not have a material impact on the 2012 tax rate.”

The Department of Social Services (DSS) is currently housed in a leased building in Hudson, and the lease is set to expire soon, although Mr. Bassin said this week that he believes the landlord would allow the agency to remain at the site while other quarters are found. The county currently pays $30,000 a month for that space – a figure Mr. Bassin called “way too high” by current standards. County officials have said the department does not have enough room at its present site to function properly.

Several years ago the county purchased the old Ockawamick school building and campus on Route 217 in Claverack, proposing to use it as the office for the DSS and other agencies. But that plan fell through after opponents of the move prevailed, noting among other objections, that the Claverack site was six miles from Hudson, where many of the people who receive the agency’s services live.

Opponents of both the Ockawamick and Greenport plans have also raised concerns about the economic impact of moving so many county employees out of Hudson.

Current chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Germantown Supervisor Roy Brown (R), announced this spring that the board would sell the Ockawamick property and pursue the purchase of the Walmart building as a major county office. The county has since taken an option to buy the building for just over $2 million.

Mr. Bassin’s memo says that 26 firms replied to a request for proposals for architectural services on the move to Walmart. He said the subcommittee interviewed seven firms had found three the most impressive. He also said in a subsequent email that the request for proposals stated that county was interested in a “plan to expedite” the move of the DSS.

That expedited approach would have the county move only the DSS into 30,000 square feet at the front of the old box store, but would not initially make accommodations for several other agencies that were originally slated to move to the Walmart site with the DSS. Chairman Brown said previously that the county would vacate and sell some of its older buildings in the city, including the county office building, a former school, at 401 State Street.

Mr. Bassin, in his notes on the subcommittee’s meeting, says, “The total remaining buildout and moves, roof repair, HVAC replacement, exterior finishings, solar, geothermal and landscaping can all be part of a five year facilities plan we can implement as funding permits.” HVAC refers to heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

The committee believes those systems and the roof can be repaired or replaced while the building is occupied. Mr. Bassin said this week that the architectural firms said they could evaluate the roof and mechanical systems to determine whether they needed repairs. The cost of construction for the move of the DSS is estimated by the committee at $100/square foot.

Mr. Bassin said the subcommittee, which includes Supervisor Larry Andrews (R-Ghent), Clermont Supervisor Ray Staats (D), Public Works Commissioner David Robinson and County Engineering Director Dean Knox, expects to discuss the latest plan with the board’s Finance and Public Works committees July 13 and then bring the matter to the full board that evening.

The county probably does not have the funds on hand to purchase and remodel even the small part of the building discussed in the subcommittee’s meeting, but Mr. Bassin said the county could issue a bond anticipation note to raise the money.

Another aspect of the plan to move the DSS calls for bus service from Hudson to the Walmart building if the DSS moves there. Mr. Bassin said that buses already run between the city and stores on Fairview Avenue. He said the county had proposed supplementing that regular bus service with express buses running directly from somewhere near where the DSS is currently located and the Walmart building.

He also said that the only factor that led to the discussions of moving only the DSS to the building this year instead of next is the cost of keeping the DSS at its present location.

To contact Parry Teasdale email

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