County eyes Ghent site for expanded services

HUDSON—Ideas for consolidating Columbia County’s Meals on Wheels facilities into one location have developed into a proposal to move not only the County’s Office for the Aging but also its Healthcare Consortium offices from downtown Hudson to Ghent.

“We’re looking at a very large project,” acknowledged County Engineer Raymond Jurkowski at the County Board of Supervisors monthly meeting November 9.

The Meals on Wheels program currently depends on four sites: the kitchen in Philmont, extra coolers in a Public Works building on Route 23B, extra coolers in the Public Safety Building on Industrial Tract Road in Greenport, and the Office for the Aging at 325 Columbia Street in Hudson. In addition, the Philmont building’s roof, plumbing and heating have been declared at the end of their useful life. Furthermore, storage areas already have “boxes on top of boxes on top of boxes” because of space limitations. Moreover, the number of meals the program produces daily has risen 25% in the past five years and “will continue to climb,” said Office for the Aging Director Kevin McDonald. Therefore, it makes sense to officials and others to combine all Meals on Wheels operations at one location, with structures in good condition, and ample room for storage, coolers, vehicles, and expansion.

So the supervisors authorized a study by architectural experts to come up with a recommendation. This study resulted in a presentation by Jon Woods of CPL Architecture and Mr. Jurkowski at the November meeting.

The first location the experts considered for the new site was the new County Emergency Services Response and Training Facility in Commerce Park in Ghent. But its parking lot would not serve the needs for all users. Meals on Wheels needs about two parking spaces per employee: one for the vehicle the employee drives to and from work, and one for the county vehicle the employee uses for work tasks like delivering meals.

Constructing a new building designed with Meals on Wheels in mind could involve a six-acre parcel adjacent Commerce Park that is available. It could connect to utility lines from Commerce Park, and its traffic accessibility is good. The experts drew up preliminary designs for the new building and how Meals on Wheels and Office for the Aging would fit into it.

The designers then realized that the new building would have room for an additional county department, Mr. Jurkowski said. The Office for the Aging and the other department would each have room for its own large conference room and each have room for expanding without “cannibalizing” the other’s space.

“How can we take advantage of this extra space?” asked Mr. Jurkowski. “We thought it a natural progression to include the Healthcare Consortium.” The Healthcare Consortium offices are currently at 325 Columbia Street on the same floor as the Office for the Aging. The two departments are “used to working on the same floor,” and, “they work on similar clientele,” Mr. Jurkowski said.

County officials have expressed wishes to move departmental offices from pre-World War II buildings to newer structures. Three twenty-five Columbia Street, where the Healthcare Consortium and the Office for the Aging are now, is actually a newer building. But if the two departments move out, other departments can move in, from an older building, 610 State Street.

‘We tried to create a cap on the costs.’

County Engineer Raymond Jurkowski

What about people who use the Healthcare Consortium and would have difficulty getting to the Ghent site, asked Supervisor Michael Chameides (Hudson, 3rd Ward).

Mr. Jurkowski said that “in many instances,” if someone has an appointment with the Healthcare Consortium, the staff drive to a location, pick up a client, bring them back to the Healthcare Consortium office and then bring them home. “So it’s not anticipated that it will be a hardship for them. And again the other potential is looking at transportation as a whole and getting public transportation out there.”

“If we could commit to a public transportation system, we could alleviate some problems” Mr. Chameides said later.

Some people at the meeting asked whether even more departments might move to Ghent. Assuming that would require more construction Mr. Jurkowski said, “We tried to create a cap on the costs. We don’t want to spend an astronomical number that would be hard to support in the long run.”

There were also comments on the flat roof of the proposed building and sources of kitchen equipment.

On November 15, Mr. Chameides said that conversations with the public and the affected departments will be needed to weigh options. “We have to consider how it will impact the public. The ultimate goal is the public good.”

Comments are closed.