Thursday, April 28, 2011

Of County Plans and Buildings

When the Public Works Committee of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors met on Wednesday night, there were two issues of interest on the agenda: the purchase of the old Walmart building and the addition to the courthouse to make the building ADA compliant.

Buying Walmart  BOS Chair Roy Brown came to the meeting to ask the committee to forward a resolution to loan money to the Capital Resources Corporation (CRC). The loan would enable CRC to pursue their plan to purchase and rehab the abandoned big box store as county offices. CRC needs $80,000 for an additional deposit payment due sometime in June and $500,000 for architectural programming and design.

Back in February, the BOS Economic Development, Planning, Tourism, Transportation, and Agriculture Committee balked at CRC's request for $78,600 to do a professional space needs and efficiency study, as part of their larger plan to move county offices to the former Walmart building, but last night the Public Works Committee showed no such resistance. The only question seemed to be about who the architects would be. 

Hudson First Ward Supervisor John Musall, a member of the committee, wanted to know if there would be an RFP for architects. Public Works Commissioner Dave Robinson responded saying something about there not being enough time. Kinderhook Supervisor Pat Grattan abstained from the vote to move the resolution forward because there was no information about architects.

Surprisingly, nobody at the table--including Brown and Robinson who are working with Planning and Economic Development Commissioner Ken Flood to move the project forward--mentioned the fact that the CRC had gone through a scrupulous RFP process and had selected Urbahn Architects of New York City to "assess the space needs of county departments, analyze interdependency among departments, compare options for providing suitable office space, and identify a preferred option." One of the reasons the firm had been chosen was their experience in consolidating governmental offices. Presumably part of what needs to be done now--the architectural programming--is that same study, without the element of comparing options and identifying a preferred one, so it makes sense that the architectural firm chosen then would be the one to begin the work now. 

Expanding the Courthouse  The plans for an addition to the Columbia County Courthouse are complete. Public Works Commission Dave Robinson reported that he had shown them to the City of Hudson, who appreciated their "sensitivity to the design of the 1907 courthouse." The "City of Hudson," in this case, was mayor's aide Cappy Pierro and Common Council President Don Moore.

An unnamed city attorney has recommended to Robinson that the county apply for an exemption from review by the Planning Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission, which he intends to do, but he is willing to show the plans to the HPC because he is "very proud of the way it's coming together."

And Then There's Ockawamick  At the end of the meeting, Greenport Supervisor Ed Nabozny suggested that a resolution needed to come out of the Public Works Committee to put the Ockawamick building on the market immediately. Said resolution was proposed, and the members of the committee voted unanimously to move it forward.

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