New Kent Town Center Complex Explained

Michael Risinit

The Joumal News
April 13, 2001

KENT - The Town Board in two weeks is expected to decide whether to approve a $6.9 million construction project that will give Kent a new town hall, library and police department on Route 52.

The plan was discussed at a 90-minute information session led by state Sen. Vincent Leibell, R-Patterson, last night that detailed the layout and financing of the longawaited project.

'This is real," Leibell told the approximately 140 people gathered at the Kent Elementary School. "This is not a mirage."

The facility is expected to house all the town's administrative offices, the severely crammed Kent Free Public library and the Kent Police Department - a recent addition to the site.

Leibell, along with the project's engineer and architect, explained each building's layout to the audience, which included the five member town board, Kent's two county legislators and many other officials. Clement Van Ross, the Putnam County legislative counsel, explained the project's financing. The senator and town officials have been discussing the project for a year.

Van Ross said about $5 million would be borrowed by issuing a 30-year bond, which could be subject to a referendum vote. If residents desire to put the bond to a vote, Town Attorney Tim Curtiss explained, they would have 30 days after the town board approves the project to collect signatures on petitions. Construction should take about nine months'

The sale of the existing Town Hall building and the library, plus some grants that have already been obtained and reserve money would make up the difference.

According to figures provided last night, the new facility would cost the average homeowner $1.05 per week for the length of the bond.

Officials and residents have anticipated a new Town Hall since the late 1980s. Kent acquired the 65 acre parcel on Route 52 between the present police station and the town's recycling center about 10 years ago. Leibell and Kent officials last night said the second phase of the project would include senior-citizen housing and a community center.

Some residents last night questioned the possibility of cost overruns and whether the new buildings could be expanded in the future. Others were ready to get started with construction.

"Here's my $52," said resident Michael Tierney. "Let's get going."

The project has languished of late. The last visible action was a 1999 summer announcement of a $75,000 grant, also courtesy of Leibell. Officials last night said the property would revert to the county, its original owner if nothing was done by October.

Since 1991, many of the town's offices have been housed in a shopping center on Route 52, where the town pays about $55,000 a year in rent. Built in 1943, the existing Town Hall houses the police station, town justices and the planning department. Town office space would jump from about 3,600 square feet to 11,000. The library's space would more than triple, to 3,600 square feet.

Initial plans didn't include room for the police station. Since the ceiling collapsed in that building 13 months ago, the department has been working out of trailers in the parking lot.

This has been a dream for very many years for many in the community," Supervisor Annmarie Baisley said.



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