Putnam chips in for new Kent Town Hall

(Original publication: October 18, 2003)

KENT — The Putnam County Legislature this week approved giving Kent $500,609 to help complete its new Town Hall, library and police station.

The funding is a boost for Supervisor Annmarie Baisley, who in recent months has been criticized for the project's rising costs. She is following her successful request with an appeal to U.S. Rep. Sue Kelly, R-Katonah, for an additional $1 million.

"Yes, I am thrilled. Yes, we're moving along," Baisley said. "I've made some phone calls to (Kelly), and I'm waiting to hear back."

The project's expected final price tag — about $10.3 million — is about $2.4 million over its original April 2001 estimate, about 30 percent. Critics have faulted Baisley for the cost overruns and asserted the recent funding request netting the $500,609 followed months of claims by Baisley that the town already had county money in hand.

"They're making up for her lie," said Councilman Joseph D'Ambrosio, the board's lone Democrat. "They had to go back and our legislators, Arne (Nordstrom) and Terry (Intrary) had to bail her out."

Most of the money — $410,000 — will come from funds Putnam received for signing the 1997 watershed agreement with New York City, the two Republican legislators said. The money is meant to be used for water quality-improvement projects and, on the Kent project, will fund the project's storm water and erosion control needs. The expenditure is subject to city approval. The remaining $90,609 would come from the county's contingency funds. Intrary dismissed D'Ambrosio's contentions.

"That's what the (watershed) money is for," Intrary said.

Municipal office space would jump from about 3,600 square feet to 11,000 square feet in the new Town Hall, which also would consolidate most town departments in one location. Since 1991, many of the town's offices have been in a Route 52 shopping center. The Police Department has been housed in trailers since a March 2000 ceiling collapse. The library's space would more than triple, to 10,600 square feet.

Baisley said the police station's foundation was completed and that structure, along with the library, should be closed in by winter. The police station, she said, should be the first building ready for occupancy, sometime next year, with the rest of the complex occupied by 2005.

The additional expenses, she said, would be defrayed by the sale of both the library and the current Town Hall, which now partially houses the police department, town court and the planning department.

The additional costs, Nordstrom said, arose from design changes ordered by the city's Department of Environmental Protection, which manages the watershed. The town center's 77 acres are in the city's watershed, between the existing police station on Route 52 and the town's recycling center.

DEP spokesman Ian Michaels yesterday said the city agency received a letter Thursday from the county, asking for approval to use the money in Kent.

"We have not had time whatsoever to review it. So we will review it and get back to the county shortly," Michaels said.

Baisley went to the county Legislature in August and asked for the money. The request followed an earlier exchange of letters between Kent resident Vincent Fiorentino, a Democratic candidate for Kent Town Board, and County Executive Robert Bondi, who stated the county wasn't contributing funds to the project. That action, Baisley said at that time, forced her to seek money from the Legislature.

A spokesman for the congresswoman said Kelly requested $750,000 for roadwork at the town center from a major highway transportation bill working its way through Congress. Rob Ostrander, Kelly's spokesman, said the bill probably wouldn't come up for a vote until February or March.

"It's in there, and we'll fight for it," Ostrander said.


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