Warily, Chatham’s two governments broach sharing space

CHATHAM–The Town and Village boards met last week at the Tracy Memorial to discuss the future of the building and what services the two municipalities might be able to share.

Land Use Specialist Carl Ublacker from the state Department of State, also attended the April 14 meeting to discuss possible grants the town and village could apply for to help combine services. Mr. Ublacker recently worked with the Villages on Kinderhook and Valatie on a state grant they used for Kinderhook to connect to Valatie’s Waste Water Treatment Plant.

The Chatham Village Board owns the Tracy Memorial Village Hall on Main Street. After years of the building being managed by a separate board, the village took over maintenance of the historic building two years ago. The Tracy, as the historic two-story brick structure is called by local residents, houses the village offices, the village police and the Village Court. There is also a food pantry in the building.

The Town of Chatham rents space in the building to hold its court and the offices for its judges and their clerks. When the village took over maintenance, the town and village boards began discussing the lack of accessibility to the second-floor courtroom and upgrades required for safety reasons.

The village successfully sought to have the building listed on the state and national historic registries and paid for a building survey. The Town Court received a grant to pay for some of the cost of installing a lift to make the second floor accessible to people with disabilities. The village put the project out to bid but only received one response and it arrived too late to be considered. The village plans to issue a new request for bids on the lift project this month.

At last Thursday’s special meeting, the boards discussed what services could be shared. Town Supervisor Maria Lull addressed the issues involved if the town offices were to move to the Tracy from the current Town Hall on Route 295 in East Chatham, saying, “We’re very comfortable where we are.”

Village Mayor Tom Curran pointed out that part of the village is in the Town of Ghent. Though he invited members of the Ghent Town Board to attend the meeting, no one was there from the town. He anticipates that adding Ghent to the conversation would mean, “They are going to bring something to the table we haven’t thought of.”

He also stressed, “We don’t have any plans to dissolve the village.” He said the town and village were just taking “baby steps” to find ways to share services. “We would not want taxes to go up because of this,” he said of future projects.

Mr. Ublacker said that there are grants from the state for shared services but applications are due this spring. And he said the municipalities should be clear about what they are applying for, and he talked about a grant for a facilities study. He also pointed out that many municipalities consolidate their courts and that there are grants for that purpose. He said the school district could be part of the grant process since the district is considered a municipality in these types of grants. The Chatham School District buildings are in the section of the Village of Chatham that lies within the Town of Ghent.

“It seems like there are many, many possibilities,” said Supervisor Lull. The Town Board will continue to discuss the issue at its next meeting, on Thursday, April 21.

The boards decided to look into creating a committee to look at shared services.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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