Residents fear cost, timing of $6M town hall project


By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

A public hearing was held to gauge community reaction to a proposal to build a new town hall. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

COEYMANS — A handful of residents expressed concerns over the cost and timing of building a new town hall at a public hearing June 23.

The hearing hosted by the Coeymans Town Council looked to gather input about the proposed project to build a new town hall on the same plot of land as the existing structure at 18 Russell Ave. in the village of Ravena.

The estimated cost of the project is $6 million, with about half of that covered by town reserves and the remainder through a 25-year bond, according to Town Supervisor George McHugh.

The public hearing will be kept open for several weeks.

“This hearing is starting tonight but it is not ending tonight,” McHugh said. “We are going to continue it through July 14, so anybody out there who is watching (on livestream) that didn’t come tonight, feel free to come July 14 or email or mail in your comments or questions or suggestions.”

Project engineer Chris Dooley from M.J. Engineering presented a concept design of the proposed project before the floor was opened to public comment.

“It’s a two-story building,” Dooley explained. “We did a feasibility study about a year and three months ago for all options. The most feasible option is to build a new town hall.”

The town looked at several possible alternatives, McHugh said.

“When we reached out to the engineers, the first thing we asked them to do was to please look at this building and tell me whether or not, structurally, this building can be renovated to a point where it can accommodate the current needs, which it can’t, is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, which it isn’t, and structurally, is it capable of being expanded so that we can have a town hall that the town can grow into over the next 50 years or more.”

Renovating the current building was not feasible, Dooley said.

“It quickly became evident that that wasn’t going to work,” the engineer said.

Other options were also explored, McHugh noted.

“I had reached out to the village of Ravena and asked them about space in their building and would it be possible to consolidate some or all of our departments into the building and that answer, also, was summarily ‘no,’” McHugh said. “There is not enough room.”

Another site was also considered for a new building, but that, too, was not a viable option, McHugh said.

“We didn’t jump to this — there was a process, so no consolidation of the village offices with the town offices, and no, this structure was not capable or if it was, it certainly would be cost prohibitive,” the town supervisor said. “Then we looked at another site, not this one, a larger site but it had challenges also and it did not have public sewer… and it was on the main drag, not on a town road. It was not located centrally for population purposes, as this (site) is. So now we are looking at this — that is how we got here. It was a process.”

The preliminary plan for the project is for a two-story building, Dooley said.

“The plan we came up with was a two-story, 12,000 square foot building approximately, which has on the first floor some of the functions that the public uses on a daily basis to interface with town departments, such as the town clerk, the assessor and the building department, as well as the town police department,” Dooley said. “On the second floor would be the court and meeting room… Also on the top floor is the supervisor’s office as well as the accounting and HR (human resources) departments.”

The new building would be built on the north side of the current site, which would allow town functions to continue in the existing building while the new one is being constructed. Once the new town hall is complete, the current structure would be demolished, Dooley said.

The property would include 67 parking spaces.

Ravena resident Laszlo Polyak said he was concerned about the cost of the project with the current state of the national economy.

“I have been advocating for a new town hall for about 20 years, but sometimes it is timing and I am wondering, can we afford to do it now with inflation going through the roof and the cost of construction going through the roof?” Polyak asked. “Might it be better to delay this for a while until we see which way the economy is going to go? Other than that, I don’t see why not, but I would love to see it on the waterfront.”

McHugh responded that if the project gets the go-ahead, construction would not begin until next year at the earliest.

“We are not starting construction this year,” McHugh said. “Even if we approved it tonight, which we are definitely not doing, this construction is not slated until minimum of 2023 or even 2024. I don’t know what it is going to look like by then. The other thing is, when we pass the bond resolution, we have up until 10 years to do it, so we do have a lot of flexibility in when we do this, depending on the economy.”

Polyak asked how much the bond would be.

“It depends on how much the estimates come in at, but I can tell you we have a very substantial fund balance and we will more than likely be paying for at least 50% of the cost of this in cash that we have in our reserves,” McHugh responded.

Resident Daniel Boomer contended the decision to move ahead with the project has already been made regardless of public input.

“I think it is fiscally irresponsible at this time,” Boomer said. “However, it appears to be a done deal and I thank you for allowing us to come down and talk. Perhaps we could have some input on the color of the curtains, but other than that, it all seems like a done deal.”

McHugh denied that a decision has already been made.

“Not even close, sir,” he responded.

Boomer remained skeptical.

“Well, thanks for having us down and making us feel American,” he said.

Resident Bob Williams, who is a member of the village’s planning board but said he was speaking as a private citizen, wanted to know the preliminary budget for the project. Dooley said it was $6 million.

“I guess I do feel the same as some of the other residents here — the timing and the cost,” Williams said. “Costs are through the roof right now, materials are hard to get and it’s very expensive. I just think you should look at the timing.”

McHugh said he spoke with the town’s bond counsel and she told him if the town acquires a bond, it could be used anytime within the next 10 years.

“That’s good,” Williams said. “Maybe things will calm down and we can get the economy going a little better before we undertake it.”

If the project is ultimately approved, the earliest construction would start is 2023, and would take roughly between 14 and 16 months to complete, McHugh said.

The public hearing remains open until July 14.

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