Sharing’s benefits won’t come easily to town or village

CHATHAM–The Town and Village boards met again last week to continue their ongoing discussion of the future of the Tracy Memorial Village Hall, a building that both municipalities use. The Village owns the building, known as the Tracy, and uses it for the village hall, village court and the headquarters of the village Police Department. The town rents the second floor for the town court and offices for the judges and the town court clerk.

The two boards have been looking at ways to share services and possibly the space. But having town government move into the Tracy, sharing it with village government, doesn’t seem to be something that will happen in the near future.

“I think the town has to do some due diligence,” said Supervisor Maria Lull, addressing a change that would involve selling the Town Hall on Route 295.

At the May 18 joint meeting, she said she talked to the town’s engineering firm about a feasibility study to look into the two municipalities sharing the building. “They felt it would probably be around $10,000,” she said of the study.

“The ultimate goal would be to save the taxpayers money,” she said of any possible move. She also said that the Town Board would need to look into the town finances to decide what to do next.

“We’ve got big dreams but we have to see what the pocketbooks will allow,” she said.

At the Town Board meeting the next night, the board decided to table moving forward with the study while the town continues its review the 2016 budget with the town’s new accounting firm.

The most pressing issue with the Tracy is putting in a lift to make the town courtroom compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Town Judge, James Borgia-Forster, was at the May 18 meeting about the Tracy. He said the town court has received a state grant to partially pay for the lift but he said the money was supposed to be spent within a certain time frame, which would soon expire. He said he was applying for an extension but wanted to make sure the village was moving forward with the plan.

Village Mayor Tom Curran said that one company bid on the lift project and that representatives from the firm are coming out to look at the space before submitting plans to add the lift.

The Town and Village board members at the meeting talked about what services are already being shared and what more they could do together. The Village of Chatham is also in the Town of Ghent and one Ghent Town Board member, Patti Matheney, attended the meeting. Mayor Curran talked about having a liaison from the village on the town boards.

Also at the meeting were representative from the Friends of the Tracy. The Friends group is made up of citizens who hope to raise money for upgrades to the Tracy. The group was in charge of the maintenance of the Tracy for several decades until the Village Board discovered that the Tracy family left the ownership of the building to the village. Last year the board took over maintenance of the building. The Friends of the Tracy group meets monthly and is applying for a not-for-profit tax statue so they can take donations.

The boards also heard from Tom Chulack, the president of CABA, the Chatham Area Business Alliance, who talked about economic opportunities in this area. “The village is our hub in this area,” he said.

He discussed having municipalities working together for the good for the whole community. CABA defines its service area as the Chatham Central School District.

Ms. Lull said that she hoped to have community input on these issues and encouraged volunteers to step forward to help with economic growth and the future of the Tracy.

“There is so much talent is in our area,” she said.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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