By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
COEYMANS — The town board gave a unanimous thumb’s up to a bond resolution to construct a new town hall.
The resolution gives the town board permission to build a new town hall at a cost of up to $7 million and to borrow a maximum of $4 million to pay for the project.
The July 14 vote starts the clock on a 30-day time period during which a member of the public can submit a petition to put the project to a permissive referendum, which would put the matter to a vote by the public. The petition must be signed by at least 5% of the number of town voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election.
The plan is to demolish the current town hall, located at 18 Russell Ave., and replace it with a new two-story, 12,000 square foot building on the same lot as the existing building. Once construction is complete, the old building would be torn down and a new parking lot would take its place.
The board opened the public hearing on construction of a new town hall, estimated to cost about $6 million, at its June 23 meeting and the hearing continued at the July 14 meeting.
The only member of the public to speak at the July hearing was Ethel Hotaling, a Ravena resident and chairwoman of the village’s planning/zoning board of appeals. Hotaling said she was reading a statement on behalf of the planning board.
“It is the village’s understanding that future changes to the building plans will be provided to the village for its review and that the town will continue to receive and consider comments from the village as the design progresses,” Hotaling said. “We want to work with the town and show the communities that we can work together as a town and village. I think that is something that has been lacking in years past.”
Town Supervisor George McHugh said the town does plan to keep village officials apprised of the project’s progress.
“I agree and I know the village attorney has communicated with our town attorney,” McHugh said. “We have assured her that that is exactly what our plan is — to work with the village every step of the way. If there are any change of plans, [the village] will get copies of them. We have no intention of doing anything here that would not be in compliance with the village’s zoning.”
Town councilman Stephen Schmitt asked about the estimated $6 million cost of the project and if there were less expensive options.
“Are we comparing Cadillac Escalades and is there a Honda Pilot version of a town hall?” Schmitt asked.
McHugh responded that the town looked at several options — including upgrading the current building, leasing space in the existing village hall building, and building on another plot of land in the town — but determined, in conjunction with the project’s engineers, that building a new structure would be the best option.
“The last option was looking at this lot and seeing what we could build here that would not only accommodate today’s needs but tomorrow’s needs,” McHugh said. “When I say tomorrow, I mean for the next 50 to 100 years. We can’t anticipate needs for town services. That was the best option by far.”
The new building will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Office of Court Administration — because the town court would be among the departments housed in the building.
The preliminary design calls for a 12,000 square foot building, with 6,000 square feet on the first floor and 6,000 square feet on the second floor, with a finished, climate-controlled basement for storage, McHugh said.
“It’s certainly not the Taj Mahal, but it is functional and we are looking at making it to fit the needs of the future for this town as this town continues to grow,” the town supervisor said. “Certainly the tax base is growing, there is more industry coming, and with that comes more jobs and more people.”
McHugh said 30 town employees work in the building presently and residents use the building daily, and there is a need for a new building. He pointed to mold and leaky pipes in the current town hall, which was originally an American Legion Post.
He added he thinks the cost of the project may ultimately come in below $6 million.
“I think it will be a little bit less, personally, and I think there are ways where we can cut corners, but at the same time, I don’t want to put up a building where we will be looking for something bigger or add on 10 years from now,” McHugh said. “I won’t be here in 10 years but somebody will be, and I don’t want to put them in that position. I think $6 million is a high estimate, but it’s a worst-case scenario.”
The bond resolution approved July 14 actually approves a project cost in the amount of $7 million. McHugh said that was just in case the project comes in a bit over the expected $6 million.
“In the resolution it says maximum project cost not to exceed $7 million,” McHugh said. “At the advice of bond counsel, we only anticipate this to be a $6 million project cost, maximum. However, if it is $6 million and one dollar, we start the process over. So she suggested we put some kind of buffer in there so if it is $6 million and one dollar, we don’t have to come back to square one and start over.”
Similarly, the resolution approves borrowing a maximum $4 million, but McHugh said the town is only expected to borrow $3 million for the project.
He also anticipates the construction project will not raise taxes for local residents.
“I don’t anticipate taxes being increased one cent because of this project. Not one cent,” McHugh said. “I’ll tell you why — because we underestimate revenues by about $300,000 every year in sales tax, which we don’t have to underestimate every year. So there’s $300,000. Three million dollars in borrowing is about a $150,000 annual payment. We have another $350,000 we get from a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) payment from Lafarge every year for the next 14 years. We have $740,000 coming in from the solar project this year that we can put toward this.”
There is also $3 million in town reserve funds and fund balances that can go toward the project, along with a $120,000 contingency fund in the town budget, he added.
“I don’t see this project affecting the tax rate whatsoever in the town of Coeymans,” McHugh said.
The bond resolution is just the start of the process, McHugh said.
“We don’t even have a design yet. We are only about 85% to 90% finished on the design,” he said. “That’s got to be fine-tuned. There is no sense in doing that until we at least go through this resolution, get through the permissive referendum time period and then start honing it down so that we can hone down the project, hone down the costs, and then there will be further resolutions down the pike.”
More public hearings on the project and a finalized building design are expected in the coming months.