Is county city govt. ‘campus’ ahead?

HUDSON–Columbia County and its municipalities are facing a deadline to share more services, and that has raised the possibility of moving county and Hudson city offices to the site of what’s now the John L. Edwards Primary School Building. The plan proposes selling some current county-owned real estate to pay for the moves.

The County Board of Supervisors discussed this and other cost saving options at three public hearings August 16. The state wants all counties to come up with a shared services plan by September 15.

The Hudson City School District plans to close JLE in about 2020 after the district finishes enlarging and remodeling its intermediate school building to handle primary school pupils too. Once JLE is closed, the Board of Education has said it will sell the site.

County officials are now considering whether to buy it and vacate current county office buildings at 610 State Street, 401 State Street and, possibly, 560 Warren Street. Currently 560 Warren Street houses the Department of Motor Vehicles office and offices of the county clerk; 401 State Street–a former city school–is the headquarters of the county Board of Supervisors’ as well as other county agencies, including the Board of Elections; 610 State holds the Probation Department other county offices. The building at 325 Columbia Street also holds county offices and departments, but county leaders intend to keep it because “it’s newer,” said Supervisor Matt Murell (R-Stockport), chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

One of the ideas under consideration is that Hudson City Hall could also move from 520 Warren Street to the JLE site. But all ideas are very preliminary, and many points need further discussion before the plan is finalized. In fact, one county official said the county needs to explore whether it can buy the JLE site.

All the buildings are in inner-city Hudson. The JLE building stands at the intersection of State and Carroll streets, behind the former library, now reportedly the headquarters of the Galvan Foundation, and across the street from 401 State.

Mr. Murell said the idea of moving the county and city offices came from supervisors, including William Hughes (D-Hudson, 4th Ward).

Reached by phone the next day, Mr. Hughes explained, “I think City Hall has outgrown its useful life. It’s not handicapped accessible.” In addition, he said, “We have four or five county buildings and one city building all of which can be sold and put on the tax rolls.” Furthermore, consolidation in the JLE building would make it easier to save money by sharing services. “A county and city campus” at the JLE site could be “a win-win for everybody,” Mr. Hughes said.

“It seems to be a perfect fit. Conceptually, theoretically, it seems to be a no brainer,” Rob Perry, Hudson’s superintendent of public works, said by phone August 21. “The city has acknowledged that City Hall is poorly designed for ADA compliance. Originally it was constructed as a bank.” The ADA is the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

Relocating City Hall would be “logistically challenging,” Mr. Perry added. If it happens, he said, “The county and city will have to negotiate” over assigning space.

Purchasing the JLE site for the purpose of moving out of current locations is one of six points in a program designed to reduce costs by sharing services. The program is called a “property tax savings plan” via “countywide shared services.” The first four of its points call for Columbia County, all its towns, villages and the City of Hudson to share: management information system (MIS) and information technology (IT) services, paper and office supplies, real property data verification and workplace conduct training classes.

A fifth point calls for towns and municipalities to switch their premium-based employee health insurance to the county’s self-insurance, which has seen its costs increase at a slower rate than other insurance premiums. But under current state regulations, towns and villages have too few employees for the county’s type of self-insurance. Therefore, the fifth point is actually a request to the state legislature to grant “smaller municipalities” permission to participate in plans such as the county’s.

The panel working on this plan consists of the 18 town supervisors, three village mayors and, for Hudson, Mr. Perry, according to information at the August 16 hearing.

Mr. Murell suggested that Columbia County’s panel meet and vote on the plan Wednesday, September 13, at about 7 p.m., half an hour before the Board of Supervisors’ regular meeting at 401 State Street in Hudson.

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