Town complex still on drawing board

MICHAEL RISINIT
THE JOURNAL NEWS
Original publication: March 23, 2001

Kent - First, it was last summer. Then, it was possibly last October.

Now, officials are just saying soon when it comes to announcements and visible progress on Kent's new Town Hall and library.

"We've got to get moving on this construction," town Supervisor Annmarie Baisley said.

The last public action on the proposed $1.5 million town center was a 1999 summer announcement of a $75,000 grant from state Sen. Vincent Leibell, R-Patterson. The money was for engineering costs and for building a road into the property, which sits on the east side of Route 52 about 500 yards north of the police station.

Last fall, Leibell and the Town Board met twice behind closed doors to discuss the project. Some residents complained that the executive sessions were illegal. Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York state Committee on Open Government, said discussions of a new Town Hall does not fall into any of eight categories allowed by law for closed-door meetings.

The senator could make an announcement soon about the possibility of more project funding.

In addition to the earlier grant, the town has set aside at least $700,000. Officials hope any bond for the project would be repaid with the money the town now spends annually on rent. Baisley said she hoped to hold a bond referendum "long before" the November general election.

Officials and residents have anticipated a new Town Hall for at least 10 years. Kent acquired the land, about 80 acres, in the mid-1990s. The new complex would house all town offices and the library. The site also has four additional building sites and space for two recreational fields.

Town office space would jump from about 3,600 square feet to 11,000, initially bringing all offices except the Police Department under one roof.

The Police Department is still operating from trailers, a year after the station's ceiling collapsed. Since then, the Town Board has looked at various repair and renovation options for the building, from refurbishing the original structure to adding an extension. It is now considering hiring an architect to develop a feasibility study concerning the different scenarios.

Police Chief Donald Smith this week said he was disappointed the department was still working out of the two trailers. In the trailers, he said, the dispatchers are not shielded from the public, and prisoners are handcuffed to a wall in one of the offices. He didn't know if the new complex would include room for his officers.

"My preference is I have to get an adequate, safe police building," Smith said.

Baisley said she wasn't sure if the planned facility would immediately include the department. The next step, she said, was to complete soil tests, examine the site's water supply and do other preliminary site work. The supervisor said the snowy winter had delayed some of those activities. Town complex still on drawing board



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