The request from Columbia County Capital Resource Corporation (CRC) for a loan of $78,600 to pay for a professional space needs and efficiency study for county offices was presented to the Board of Supervisors Economic Development, Planning, Tourism, Transportation, and Agriculture Committee on Tuesday night and ended up being tabled.
Committee member Art Bassin (Ancram) suggested that the undertaking the study deflects from the immediate problem of finding new space for the Department of Social Services. He also asked if the study was or was not independent of the plan to buy the abandoned Walmart building in Greenport.
Art Baer (Hillsdale) explained that he had reservations about spending money on the study because "we haven't done a pro forma tax impact scenario." He reminded the committee that the County is already committed to two capital projects--Pine Haven and the addition to the courthouse to achieve long overdue ADA compliance--and these "big debts have to be looked at in terms of the tax levy." Baer likened the proposed study to "hiring an interior decorator to lay out a house that you're not sure you can afford." Pat Grattan (Kinderhook), before leaving at 6:30 for another meeting, indicated that he was in agreement with Baer.
Richard Keaveney (Canaan) asked, "How many times are we going to do a space study?" He suggested that to do another one would be a waste of money. Baer expressed the opinion that the consultants would only "feed us back what the department heads say." Although Ken Flood, Commissioner of Planning and Economic Development, tried to point out the importance of having an unbiased professional study, the only member of the committee who seemed persuaded of its benefits was Ed Nabozny (Greenport). Keaveney commented that "making a decision is not hiring another consultant," and Robin Andrews (Claverack) said she didn't think the proposed study would "give us the information we need to get to the next stage."
It was generally agreed by the committee that the tax impacts of the various options needed to be understood before $78,600 was spent on another study. In the end, the committee decided to table the request.
At some point during the discussion, Flood asked if he should recommend to the CRC that they get their $50,000 deposit on the Walmart building back, but Keaveney indicated there was no need to do that yet.
The committee revisited the possibility of buying 25 Railroad Avenue and keeping DSS where it was. The point was made that buying the building would cost $1 million--a one-time expense--whereas pursuing the plan to buy and retrofit the Walmart building would involve a commitment to CRC of $1 million every year for several years. The idea that the County may want to buy the DSS building introduces a complication. On September 21, the Common Council passed a resolution authorizing Mayor Rick Scalera to negotiate to buy 25 Railroad Avenue as the new location for the Hudson Police Department and City Court. It seems the City of Hudson and Columbia County may now be in competition for the building.
See Francesca Olsen's account of the meeting in the Register-Star: "Supes deny $78K to CRC." Olsen summarizes the discussion by saying, "The request opened the floodgates of BOS self-introspection."