Shakespeare & Company A Body of Water June-July 2024

Officials look for alternatives to town hall dilemma

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Elected officials are working to come up with a plan for the Coeymans Town Hall building. File photo

COEYMANS — With a mold problem in the basement of town hall, officials are looking at remediating the problem, making repairs, and then coming up with a long-term solution to the question of what to do with the town hall.

The original plan was to build a new town hall, with a price tag of up to $7 million. But when a public referendum was forced, voters in November rejected that plan.

Now, officials are working to come up with an alternative.

The first and most immediate issue to be dealt with is the mold problem in the basement of the existing town hall, where the Coeymans Police Department was formerly located. The water infiltration that plagues the building’s basement led to a widespread mold problem.

The space was deemed unsuitable for town employees, so the town board made the decision to relocate several town departments, including the supervisor’s and business offices, to a rental space on Mountain Road Extension, so the police department could move upstairs to the first floor.

Town Supervisor George McHugh said the first step will be to address the mold and water problems.

“I think the priority right now is to get the mold remediation under control downstairs, but equally important is the water infiltration,” McHugh said. “I did confirm today every time it rains fairly hard, it pours in. The wall is where it is pouring in from so there are probably some problems with the wall. We have to do them simultaneously.”

Once the mold is addressed, McHugh said he intends to hold public hearings to consider various options the town can take next, now that the voters rejected the board’s proposal to build a new town hall.

Fixing the current town hall will not come cheap, he said. McHugh said he has been working with engineer Chris Dooley from MJ Engineering to come up with a plan and an approximate figure for repairs.

“It will cost about half a million dollars to fix the mold and the water infiltration problem, ballpark, unless we find a problem, like a broken wall or other issues — that could be upwards of a million dollars to fix the mold, and that just gives us this 5,000-square-foot building without mold,” McHugh said. “It doesn’t do any of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) issues, it doesn’t do anything about the size issue or what we actually need to house the departments adequately and appropriately, now or going forward. So you are probably looking at closer to a million dollars in making this building solid and sound again.”

“And safe for everybody to be in,” Town Councilwoman Marisa Tutay added.

After the mold and water infiltration problems are taken care of, the town will look at other options for the town hall.

“Do we want to build onto this building and make it larger and ADA compliant and put money into that? And when I say ‘we,’ I mean the town — that’s why I want to hold public hearings with options,” McHugh said. “Do we want to go down to the Coeymans hamlet and turn this building into a police and court building, like a public safety building, where it’s just the sheriff’s and the Coeymans Police and the court? And do we want to go down to the old Coeymans firehouse, add on to that, which is why I had Chris (Dooley) go down and look at it, add on to that and make that our town hall? I don’t know, that is another option.”

Other options could be constructing a new town hall at another site or building an addition to the current structure to create a campus setting for town offices.

Those are all alternatives the town could consider and gather public input about at hearings, he said.

“I do know we need to do something because right now we are renting space for half of our staff, the other half is in a building where we can only use this upper floor because downstairs is dangerous,” McHugh said. “And it is only getting worse.”

Dooley explained how the mold problem would be handled.

“We would address the mold issue by removing the interior finishes that are subject to mold — the carpet, the paneling on the walls, the sheetrock, and so on,” Dooley said. “Once we’ve done that, on the outside, assuming that you have a wall that is not deteriorated, we would put in some sort of waterproofing on it — a waterproofing membrane — and then some sort of drainage.”

It is unclear how much mold and water damage there is to the building and engineers won’t know the extent until the work commences, Dooley added.

“So you are looking at half a million dollars assuming everything is fine, but knowing that you have water seeping in through the walls, there probably is something going on,” Dooley said.

After renovations to the building begin, the town will then be mandated to address another issue — bringing the building into compliance with regard to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Once you start renovating it, you have to bring it up to code if renovations will be more than 50% of the building, and you will be renovating more than 50% of the building so you have to bring it up to code,” Dooley said, adding that other structural features will also have to be addressed, such as upgrading and reinforcing the downstairs areas of the building to comply with the code.

These issues were among the reasons the engineers recommended building a new structure rather than repairing the old one in the first place, Dooley said.

“That is why we went with the new building because you would be sinking a lot of money into what you have and then eventually doing an add-on that will cost money as well, and probably wouldn’t give you as much square footage as you would with a brand-new structure,” the engineer said.

Deputy Town Supervisor Brendan Lefevre asked about the former firehouse building and whether that was a viable option.

“I thought the building, the bones of it, looked pretty solid,” Dooley said. “It does have some site challenges — there is a pretty steep slope in the back so from a parking perspective and access it would be a little bit more of a challenge.”

Tutay said the firehouse building could be a feasible alternative.

“But I would like to hear what the public has to say,” she said.

The current town hall, at 18 Russell Ave., was built around 1960 as an American Legion building.

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