ANCRAM— By more than a two-to-one margin town residents have shown their support for borrowing money, if necessary, to renovate and add on to the existing town Highway Department garage.
Two hundred thirty-seven residents cast Yes votes for a proposal to borrow up to $400,000, if necessary, to complete the project, while 109 voted against the plan in a special election held at the Town Hall, Saturday, August 21.
Thirty-six absentee ballots are included in the total count. Seven absentee ballots were still outstanding as of press time and were scheduled to be counted Thursday, August 26, at 10 a.m. at Town Hall, if they are received.
Some bids on the project have been opened, though not officially awarded. The total project cost will not exceed $500,000. The plan is to complete enough of the garage so the Highway Department can move in before January 1, 2011.
What to do about the lack of space and inadequate facilities at the highway garage have been contentious matters since January 2008, when then supervisor Thomas Dias convened a public meeting at the garage to call attention to the cramped, deteriorating buildings.
A committee to study the situation was appointed, and in June 2008 the group recommended the purchase of Bob Mathew’s Hornets Nest paintball building and some surrounding acreage on Roche Lane as the best place to relocate the highway garage. But several nearby residents opposed moving the garage to their residential area, and the cost of the Mathew building and property came under fire, with questions raised about the intentions and interests of highway garage committee members.
In November 2009, a last ditch effort was attempted by the Town Board, including three members who had just lost their bids for re-election that month, to lease the Mathew property, even though the town’s own attorney deemed it illegal.
When that failed, the highway garage issue remained for the incoming board to deal with. The three newly elected board members had campaigned together—taking the position that the highway garage was better left where it was on Town Road in Ancramdale.
The board’s first order of business this year was the formation of a new committee to figure out how to put a new garage on the existing site.
In recent months, the plan to renovate and expand the existing garage emerged.
“Over two-thirds of the voters who participated in this election support the $500,000 plan to renovate and expand the garage at the current site, and to finance up to $400,000 of the cost of the facility,” Supervisor Art Bassin said by email following the vote.
“The Garage Construction Committee, chaired by Emile Racenet and supported by Joe Iuviene of the Architectural Bureau of Chatham, has done a great job of developing a sensible plan that the town can afford and support and that meets the needs of the Highway Department.
“Our preliminary work on the 2011 budget indicates that we can pay back a $400,000 loan over 5 years, with no tax increases, as we had hoped would be the case,” Mr. Bassin wrote. He said the town will begin this week to secure the money, with plans to start construction in mid-September, keeping to the end-of-year target for moving in. The supervisor said the board has selected contractors for the building, heating, electric work and the overhead doors.
“Everyone is very excited about getting this new garage done this year,” said Mr. Bassin in his email, adding, “As Highway Superintendent Jim MacArthur recently commented, ‘It’s about time!’”