Two Chatham boards explore space needs

CHATHAM–The boards of the town and village met at the Tracy Memorial Village Hall September 24 to discuss the future of the building, which was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The town rents space at the Tracy Memorial from the village, which owns the building. The village uses the brick building as the village hall, village court and the headquarters for the village Police Department. The local food pantry uses the building as well and other groups rent space for events throughout the year.

The boards started their discussion about sharing space last spring, when the town renewed its lease on the courtroom. The Village Board took over maintenance of the building last year and had an study done to look into the major issues in the century-old building, including Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance, repairs to the roof and fire escape, and security at the town court offices on the second floor.

At an April Town Board meeting Mayor Tom Curran said that the building needs about $2.7 million of repairs.

Last spring the Town Board requested that the town’s engineer draw up plans to expand the Town Hall on Route 295 to accommodate the Town Court and a larger meeting space. The estimated cost for that expansion comes to somewhere between $1-million and $2.4 million, according to the engineers.

Last week’s joint village-town meeting was held in the village meeting room, with about 14 people in the audience and all members for the Village Board present along with all but one member of the Town Board. At that session the boards discussed the possible merger for their two offices.

Town board member Henry Swartz was absent.

“We don’t have large spaces,” said Town Board member Bob Balcom at the meeting. He also talked about the overlap of services, noting that the two municipalities use the same building inspector but he must commute between the two offices.

Mayor Curran pointed out part of the Tracy Memorial property includes a three-bay garage behind the building that is “quite large” and could be used to house the food pantry or possibly a community center.

Town Supervisor Jesse DeGroodt suggested that having the Town Hall on Route 295 had its advantages for community members who live outside of the Village of Chatham.

“Not everybody is village-centric,” he said, adding that the Town Board represents 4,200 people. Supervisor DeGroodt said that his board should look at the plans created by the town engineers for expanding Town Hall to see what the town’s space needs are. He stressed that the boards were making “small steps” towards combining space.

“You’re going to find out your space needs and we’ll find out our space needs,” said Mayor Curran.

Both Town Board members Maria Lull and Jean Rohde mentioned looking into outside funding for shared services.

“Consolidation is the big thing now,” said Ms. Rohde.

Village Board member Lenore Packet said that though sharing space was a slow process there were things needed to be done on the building soon. “It is a municipal building that is not ADA complaint,” she said, mentioning the need for an elevator.

Mayor Curran said that the contract between the town and village for the Town Court was up soon and the boards may want to look at a longer-term contract, since the last one was for only six months.

He also said the two boards would need to discuss the municipal parking lot near the Tracy Memorial, which is owned by both the town and the village. Mayor Curran said they needed to discuss the maintenance of the lot. And he asked, “Does the town just want to sell the village that lot?”

There was no further discussion on the parking lot or the town court contract. The boards plan to review their space needs and meet again at some point about the future of the Tracy Memorial.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

 

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