From 325 Columbia Street:
- Environmental Health/Health Department
- Mental Health
- Health Care Consortium
- Office for the Aging
- Youth Bureau, including STOP-DWI
- Central Services with storage facilities
- Probation Department
- Public Defender
- County Historian
- Backup 911 Center
- Social Services--from 25 Railroad Avenue
- Columbia Economic Development Corp.--from 4303 Route 9 (the Holcim building)
Ken Flood, in his capacity as the Chief Operating Officer of the Columbia County Capital Resource Corporation (one of Flood's several titles and roles), stated at the outset of the meeting that its purpose was to "listen to the public provide an opinion on this option," but, even though this time it was the CRC who was listening and not the Board of Supervisors, many at the meeting felt it was July 2008 and the "public hearing" on Ockawamick all over again. At that meeting, hundreds of people filled the auditorium at Montgomery C. Smith--then the middle school, now the intermediate school--to express the opinion that buying an abandoned school building in the "geographic center of the county" to create a county "campus" somewhere other than the county seat was a singularly bad idea. But in spite of overwhelming opposition to Ockawamick, the Board of Supervisors went ahead and spent $1.5 million to purchase the building, which remains unused. On Wednesday, Second Ward Supervisor Ed Cross expressed the feelings of many when he told Flood, "It seems like we already bought it [the old Walmart building], and now you're selling it to us."
It seemed few at the meeting liked the idea of spending "something less than $2.7 million" to buy an abandoned big box and another $14 million to refit it as an office building--the few being Ken Flood and the members of the CRC board who were present: Bruce Bohnsack, Sid Richter, Ted Guterman, Jim Mackerer, and possibly others not noticed by Gossips. In the many questions and comments voiced during the hour-and-a-half-long meeting, there were some recurrent themes.
- The proposal, which involves 125,000 square feet of building and 14.5 acres of land, doesn't include a plan for sheltering the homeless. Since county's current practice of housing the homeless in motels costs an inordinate amount of money and so far the implementation of the recommended "congregate housing" model doesn't promise to be much better in terms of expense to taxpayers, it seems essential that any proposal that purports, among other things, to save taxpayer money should address the homeless housing problem.
- Moving 300 county employees, who buy lunch and shop in Hudson, out of the city will have a negative impact on Hudson businesses. Mayor Richard Scalera demanded to know during meeting, "Whose interest is it to move 300 county employees out of the City of Hudson?" No answer was forthcoming.
- The proposal creates access problems for a substantial number of people who require services. Michael Cole, director of the Mental Health Department, reported that 20 to 30 percent of his department's clients walk to the clinic. Mayor's aide Carmine Pierro said that 46 percent of clients of the Health Department and 55 percent of the clients of the Department of Social Services live in Hudson.
- Moving government offices out of the city into a box store situated among box stores is detrimental to the community at large. Matthew Frederick, an architect and urban designer who recently moved to Hudson, warned that "the location of county buildings in sprawl becomes an endorsement of sprawl."
- The removal of county offices from Hudson constitutes the systematic dismantling of the county seat.
- By emphasizing efficiency and cost reduction, the proposal is apathetic toward the consumers of the services and strips them of their dignity.
Ted Guterman, attorney for the CRC and the IDA, expressed his opinion that the acquisition of the old Walmart building "could possibly be a golden opportunity for the county--to get it out of the 19th century and into the 21st century."
A special meeting of the CRC, at which they may make the first (nonbinding) decision of a series of decisions about this acquisition, has been scheduled for Friday, December 17, at 8 a.m., at the Columbia Economic Development Corporation office, 4303 Route 9 (the Holcim building).
Francesa Olsen's coverage of the meeting appears in today's Register-Star: "Walmart proposal gets a chilly response."