22 July 2009

There is reason to be cautiously optimistic this morning . . .

Proposal leaves DSS in Hudson
by Francesca Olsen
Hudson-Catskill Newspapers
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

At a press conference Tuesday, Board of Supervisors Chairman Art Baer, R-Hillsdale, and Hudson Mayor Richard Scalera announced that they are considering a proposal “to allow the Columbia County Department of Social Services to remain in Hudson.”

The plan would entail the county’s purchase of the One City Centre building on the corner of State and Green streets in Hudson; departments currently in the County Office Buildings at 401 and 610 State Street would move to City Centre, freeing up room for DSS operations.

The total square footage of 401 and 610 State Street is 36,000 square feet, 24,000 at 401 and 12,000 at 610 State Street. Baer said that this was “significantly more” space than DSS currently has.

Baer called the proposal “a great solution for a difficult problem” and said “I’m looking forward to implementing it.”

“The logistics of the planning -- there’s a lot to discuss,” said Scalera. “The commitment to keep DSS in the city of Hudson is what we’ve been working for.”

DSS would stay in its current building on Railroad Avenue for the duration of its lease, which ends in 2011; plans to retrofit One City Centre and the County Office Buildings will be firmed between now and then.

Baer told the Register-Star on June 23 that the county was not interested in purchasing One City Centre. “When we were interested in that building, we did not own the Ockawamick School. At this point, we have no need for additional space,” he said.

The chairman said his change of mind came with the change in the real estate market. “At previous levels of pricing, what I said was true,” he said.

“One City Centre is no longer as costly as it was, say, a year ago,” said Scalera.

Though Baer said he was “not prepared to go into any numbers” regarding the county’s bid on One City Centre, the Register-Star reported on June 23 that the price on the building has fallen since the recession from $5 million to about $2 million.

One City Centre currently houses a few businesses, including a branch of the First Niagara Bank and the headquarters of Taconic Farms, a research laboratory. If the county owns property for county use, it is not required to pay tax on the property. Baer said that if the county were to purchase the building, the space being used by businesses would still be on the tax rolls.

One City Centre is being reassessed right now. “I think reassessment value will be lower than what it was,” Baer said.

“This is not a done deal,” the chairman stressed. “We are only in discussion with the bank. There are still many pieces that have to be put together in the puzzle.”

Other bids are out on the One City Centre property. Richard Koskey confirmed that he had made a bid on the property with the plan of leasing it to the county at “below market” value.

“The bank, we do believe, wants to move on the property,” said Baer. “We’re moving this on a parallel with the dormitory authority.”

The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) is being considered to act as a third party for work on the county’s capital projects. DASNY provides financing and construction services to non-profits higher education and health care institutions, certain state agencies and nonprofit organizations specified by law. Court facilities, social services and homeless housing programs are all eligible for DASNY financing.

Baer told the Register-Star that funds to buy One City Centre would probably come from a larger bond for several projects, including renovations to the former Ockawamick school building and renovations to the county courthouse.

Baer said he has gotten positive feedback from businesses located in One City Centre. “We are in very close touch with them,” he said.

If One City Centre is purchased, the Ockawamick plan would be “downsized”, according to Baer. “We would probably build out a little less than half, which would be absolutely necessary to make (this plan) viable,” he said.

Minority Leader Doug McGivney, D-Kinderhook, said he supported the plan. “I’m very enthusiastic that this will solve part of our capital improvements.”

McGivney said that years ago, One City Centre was the first choice in the discussion of where to move DSS. “Our original desires look like they’re possible. It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “The devil’s always in the details, but it looks pretty good.”

Supervisor William C. Hughes, D-Hudson 4, expressed his happiness on the plan to keep DSS in Hudson. “This is a great day. We’re certainly elated,” he said.

Supervisor Tom Dias, D-Ancram, said he wasn’t sure yet. “I don’t have enough information yet,” he said. “There’s too many numbers up in the air. What I hear so far is a lot has to do with the fact that certain tenants remain and I have a concern about that. I don’t think the county should be in that kind of business, but I’m keeping an open mind.”

“I think the devil’s in the details, but I think in general, One City Center makes sense,” said Supervisor George Jahn, D-Austerlitz. He called the building the only “Class-A” building in the city of Hudson -- meaning it is newer and needs much less renovation work than other options. “The current DSS building is currently a class-C building,” he said.

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