By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
COEYMANS — The town council is considering purchasing and renovating the Grace United Methodist Church building and turning it into a new town hall.
The existing town hall on Russell Avenue has a mold and water infiltration problem, and voters in November rejected a proposal to build a new town hall on the same site for up to $7 million, so officials are looking at other options.
Grace UMC, at 16 Hillcrest Road in the village, is on the market with an asking price of $549,000, according to the New York State Multiple Listing Service, which lists properties that are available. There would be additional costs to renovate the structure, with a rough estimate of about $4 million, according to Town Supervisor George McHugh.
The site is listed on the NY State MLS website as a 14,000-square-foot former church building built in 1965 with a small outbuilding on a 4.8-acre property. The site was listed for sale by realtor Coldwell Banker Prime Properties effective May 1 of this year.
McHugh said he went to take a look at the building a couple of months ago and then he toured the site with the town’s engineer to see if it is a viable option. The other members of the town hall also visited the site.
“We think it’s a possible option,” McHugh said. “It’s certainly big enough — it’s approximately 14,000 square feet, which is a couple thousand square feet bigger than we were going to build. It’s laid out as a church and a school, so there are a lot of classrooms, which is very conducive to departments for the town for offices. Its entrances are ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliant and it’s really one floor. You go down a few stairs and up a few stairs for the classrooms, but the main rooms, most of the office space, is just on one floor. Most of the building is ADA compliant and accessible.”
The building’s bathrooms are not ADA compliant and would have to be renovated, McHugh said.
A rough estimate of the cost to renovate the building would be about $4 million, he noted.
“It’s a big building and there is some renovation needed,” McHugh said. “The roof needs work, the interior needs some work, the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) would need to be replaced. Those are the big issues. It’s hard to say exactly how much [it would cost to renovate] until the engineers put pen to paper, but a very rough estimate from our engineer was in the $4 million range.”
Construction projects by municipalities have to adhere to the state’s prevailing wage requirements, which are mandatory, the town supervisor said.
“Everything that a municipality does would cost more than if you were going to do it at your house,” he said. “It is a very large flat roof that needs to be replaced and pitched, there are 14,000 square feet for HVAC, there are interior pipes that need to be changed. If you figure $300 a foot, it would come out to around $4 million, but again, that is a rough estimate.”
The purchase of the site would be an additional cost; McHugh said the town would not be willing to pay the asking price of $549,000. But the building may be a viable option, he said.
On Thursday, Sept. 14, at 6 p.m., the town council will hold an informal public hearing to gauge the community’s reaction to the proposition.
The details have yet to be worked out, McHugh said.
“We haven’t put together a plan yet — we are only at the stage where we are looking to see what the appetite is for the public for this option,” he said. “I said before that I would put out as many options as we can find and one option was fixing the existing building, one option was building a brand new one on the site, and this is a third option of taking an existing building and renovating and repurposing it into a town hall.”
The town supervisor said that if the town were to purchase the building and renovate it, the funds would come out of the town’s fund balance.
“If we do buy it, we would not be borrowing any money, so that is good news, and it won’t affect anyone’s taxes,” he said. “We have enough fund balance to buy it and to do most of the renovations.”
Some of the work would have to be done before moving in, such as the roof and HVAC system, but other elements of the renovation could be done in phases over time, McHugh said.