Workers stay put

(Original publication: February 13, 2004)

KENT ­ No one is moving anywhere, at least until mid-summer, Kent Supervisor William Tulipane said this week.

Controversial plans for temporarily relocating the town's Recreation Department to an unused firehouse were scuttled after a potential increase in the rent the town pays for its office space didn't materialize. The next stop, Tulipane said, should be Kent's new town hall, library and police station being built on Route 52.

By August, both the police and library staff should be in their new quarters, with the remainder of the town departments to follow by Thanksgiving.

"Those dates are hard dates and they're getting harder every day," Tulipane said.

Since 1990, the town has been renting about 3,600 square feet in a Route 52 shopping center. Three office suites there house the supervisor's office, the town clerk, the town accountant, the assessor, the Building Department and the Recreation Department.

Last month, Kent was facing a $12,000 annual increase in the rent it pays for that space. Moving the two-person recreation staff plus two archive workers to the old Lake Carmel firehouse, which was recently vacated, was seen as a cost-saving measure but was met by intense opposition from the Lake Carmel Park District. The district, which lays claim to the building, worried the move wouldn't be temporary and that the use wasn't in its residents' best interest.

"I'm happy he decided to scrap it," said Wanda Schweitzer, chairwoman of the Lake Carmel Park District Advisory Committee.

The proposal caused residents to pack this week's Town Board meeting, which Kent Fire Inspector William Walters shut down after 30 minutes when the crowd exceeded the meeting room's 57-person capacity.

Schweitzer said she would like the Town Board to tour the building before other uses are assigned to it. The district, she said, is also waiting for an analysis of the building's structure and septic system to be completed. The ideal use, Schweitzer said, is as a headquarters for the district's maintenance staff and as a meeting room for small town gatherings.

The Police Department, the Planning Department and the Town Court are in Kent's old Town Hall on Route 52, which will be the Recreation Department's home once those employees move to the new facility, Tulipane said. The latest action doesn't save the town any money, he said, but it also doesn't cost the municipality any additional funds.

"I'm happy for the town office to stay here," said Tulipane, referring to the Recreation Department's present spot, "because it's disruptive for them to move. But I'm disappointed the Lake Carmel Park District couldn't help the town save money."

Kent will continue paying about $4,300 a month for its shopping center space, according to town figures, instead of a possible $5,300. The jump was tied to the town's failure to return the lease to its landlord, Angelo Senno of Frangel Realty in Carmel, by a Dec. 1 deadline. Senno couldn't be reached for comment, but Tulipane said his proposal to relocate all of the town departments to another shopping center caused the landlord to reconsider.

Municipal office space would increase from about 3,600 square feet to 11,000 square feet in the new town hall. The police department would move from its useless office, where the ceiling collapsed in 2000, to an 8,400 square-foot facility. The majority of the department is presently housed in two trailers in the old Town Hall's parking lot.

The library's space would more than triple, to 10,600 square feet. Library employees are eagerly preparing for the move, said Assistant Director Karen LaRocca-Fels.

"We're extremely excited," LaRocca-Fels said. "There's a lot of internal planning on how to make the move so we are busy."

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Friday, February 13, 2004