Blooming Grove Town Hall Will Likely Get Massive Upgrades Next Year
By Edie Johnson
Court, Rec Dept. Out of Space, HVAC Failing
Not only has the town’s HVAC system already failed twice this year, some of its dampers and thermostats do not work and the recharge that is used to fix the failing air conditioners is no longer made and will soon be unavailable. The town’s consulting engineers say it’s not a matter of whether it will completely fail, but when.
Meanwhile the building itself is short on space, especially for storage of court records, and the use of it as a courtroom has only been permitted to operate because it is “grandfathered”. It is largely out of current court compliance standards and while the interior his homey and speaks to the town’s history, it lacks security. The town currently has documents for birth certificates, marriage and death certificates that date back to the late 1800’s. With an addition, records storage would be on the ground floor. As to court safety, Supervisor Rob Jeroloman said that one of the potential plans they are looking at would add a curtain wall, beginning at the entrance, so that defendants would no longer walk right through areas including public and employees. He added that the town’s insurance company says the courtroom is currently deemed “Unsafe” due to intermingling of defendants and the public. Benches that are bolted down, he said, are now required rather than chairs. A renovation would also consider improved access.
The Recreation Department is also facing a space problem. Their building space at Lasser Park has electrical issues and cannot presently been used. And the space currently leased at Fulton Square is not only expensive, but is imminently under new ownership.
Between the approximately $4,000 per month that the town is spending to lease space, and the $4,000 to $5,000 it would likely cost to archive any records at Iron Mountain that can be stored digitally, both engineers and trustees agreed that at it would be more economically wise in the long run to build a significant expansion at Town Hall and a Rec Center at Lasser Park. With electrical, HVAC , health and compliance issues knocking at the door there is ultimately not a lot of choice about taking action soon.
A lengthy session of hashing out alternatives followed, including benefits of increasing shared services, especially regarding the courts, with the Village of Washingtonville. Trustee Charles Quick said he thought one thing is sure, i.e. that the costs of building will not get cheaper, so it is better to do it now. Trustee Stephen Amante went a step further saying that the town should look ahead and be sure to make the expansion large enough that it would not have to be redone in another 10 years. While it might turn out to be expensive, Trustee Tom DeVinko suggested that the board invite an archiving expert to help determine possible alternative economical means to store these records.
If all of these potential new expenses sound overwhelming, they may not be as bad as they seem. Jeroloman said that the town has several “bands” (loans) that will be coming of age next year. He expects that the yearly loan savings, combined with the band payments no longer being made will result in long-term savings and NO increase in taxes. The engineers, while not having actually drawn floor plans yet, expect that the resulting improvements will be designed to last 30-50 years.
Engineer Mike Edsall of McGooey, Hauser, Edsall emphasized “These plans (for the HVAC system) need to start months ago”. Town Hall will be hard pressed to function during further compressor failure with more 90-degree days. The heating issues are not quite as serious but result in hot and cold areas. His colleague, Mike Lamoreaux, has already studied and designed other courtrooms in the area and will be able to include the access and security requirements that are now necessary for compliance. They feel that approvals need to be done during the Fall in order for bids to go out, be considered, and choices made in time for the new system to be ready for next Spring/Summer when the hot weather returns.
This is the third time that Blooming Grove administrations have considered expansions to tackle the space and compliance issues, but push seems to have come to shove this time. Both engineers emphasized that with the continually amassing court records required by law to be kept, storage of them could compromise the floor which is supported by a steel frame and 2 x 4’s. It is not built to hold thousands of pounds in a small space.
Plans for these 3 projects are being fast-tracked over the next few weeks, especially for the new HVAC system, and the resulting options will be presented and discussed with opportunities for public input during the next few Town Board meetings.