Recreation department to move

By MICHAEL RISINIT
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: February 2, 2005)

KENT — Town-owned baseballs, bats and basketballs will soon have a new home in Kent's former town hall on Route 52.

The Town Board decided not to sell the old municipal building. Instead, the Kent Recreation Department will move into the structure, which means athletic equipment will no longer be stored at coaches' homes and taxpayers will no longer have to pay the department's annual rent of about $13,000. The move should happen by early spring, town officials said.

"Anything that would help out the recreation department would be great," said resident Joe Salumn, a senior court clerk in the Bronx, who has coached baseball and basketball and taken home his share of equipment.

"We give it back, though, at the end of the season," he said.

The recreation department's location and the future use of the old town hall have been debated in recent months, a byproduct of the recently opened new town center. The police department, the building department and the town court moved into the new municipal complex, about half-a-mile north of their old home in the former town hall.

Other town offices that were housed in rented space in a Route 52 shopping center farther south — the supervisor, the assessor, the town clerk — also moved to the larger new facility. But the recreation department remained in its 600-square-foot space in the shopping center.

"I don't know how they're able to do all that stuff out of the closet (they're in)," said Dori Burke, who provides day care in her home and partakes of the department's programs for her own children and her charges.

When the town-center proposal was first unveiled in 2001, selling the old town hall was part of the plan — a fact proponents of the sale pointed to, as well as the need to help offset an approximately $1.2 million cost overrun on the almost $12 million town center.

"We owe (money) on the new Town Hall, and I don't think we looked into all our options," said Councilwoman Kathy Doherty, who was the only member of the five-person Town Board to vote against relocating the recreation department.

Estimates on its sale price by town officials have ranged from $300,000 to $600,000.

But the former municipal building is in a residentially zoned area, limiting what a future buyer can do with it. The board voted last week to move the recreation department out of its rented office and into the brick building.

"I still have part of the office in my house," Recreation Director William Huestis said. "This is a blessing."

The building is possibly best known for its March 2000 ceiling collapse. That forced the police department, the building's ground-floor occupant, to spend several years working out of trailers in the parking lot. Town Supervisor William Tulipane said the building was structurally sound, and the collapsed ceiling was a suspended one that failed.

Volunteers, he said, will paint the offices. The former meeting room will still be available for community functions. Future plans advocated by Tulipane and Huestis include turning the building into a recreation center.

Bob Ulich coaches baseball and has a bag of equipment stashed in his garage. Relocating the recreation department and possibly creating a center are good ideas, he said.

"It's going to be a plus for the residents of the town, both for congregating in the future and, obviously, for the recreation employees," said Ulich, who works for a pharmaceutical company.

Reach Michael Risinit at mrisinit@thejournalnews.com or 845-228-2274.Reach Michael Risinit at mrisinit@thejournalnews.com or 845-228-2274.



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Wednesday, February 2, 2005
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