Thursday, February 22, 2007

Public Hearing - February 28, 2007

The New Hartford Town Board has announced a public hearing on February 28, 2007 at 7 p.m. in Butler Hall to discuss the $4.6 million bond proposals to be voted on March 29, 2007. I do hope they have some answers this time and that Mr. Reed has the courtesy to answer questions instead of ignoring certain residents who tend to ask questions he can't answer.

Let's start with a few questions regarding the purchase of 1 Oxford Crossing. According to an Observer Dispatch article on February 11th, the police need a new home because they are cramped in their present location. We will not argue with that--we have been in the police station and they are cramped. The purchase of 1 Oxford Crossing would double their present size which is around 2,600 or so sq. ft. --with 1 Oxford Crossing they would have 6,000 sq. ft. Our problem is the other 6,000 sq. ft. that is allocated for the codes, assessor, planning and engineering. Right now, that is about 8 people. Why do 8 people need 6,000 sq. ft. or are there some other plans that the town board just hasn't disclosed yet?

Recently the town added some information to their website regarding the bond resolutions. One of the items was a cost analysis of all the other locations that have been looked at over the past few years. Problem is these figures are misleading as well as outdated. Previous administrations did indeed look at these properties; however, they looked at them with the intention of actually consolidating ALL town offices into one building. The purchase of 1 Oxford Crossing does not even come close to consolidation--it will actually be adding another building that will need to be maintained through additional taxes to the residents of New Hartford. We will still be paying rent for offices at Butler Hall and the space used for the Senior Center on Sherman Street. Previous location plans also included the sale of property that the police station currently occupies and with that the possibility of it being added back on the tax roll. This purchase would actually take another $563,000 off the tax rolls and who do you think will make up the difference? In effect, what they are doing is mixing "apples and oranges" to try and make their case all under the guise of consolidation. One can hardly compare the cost of consolidating ALL town offices with the cost of merely moving some offices to an additional location.

Back in 2005, when Partlow was being looked at as a possible site, several questions were asked of then Town Supervisor Humphreys and it was expected that he would have all his "ducks in a row" before any commitment was even made to purchase the building, let alone talk about securing the funds. Now some of the same people that were so demanding of Mr. Humphreys are silent and expect residents to give an o.k. with little or no information and a lot of misinformation.

I reviewed previous town board minutes and put together a few comments made regarding the possible purchase of the Partlow building. Take a look at the comments from those board meetings and ask yourself if these questions have been answered regarding the purchase of 1 Oxford Crossing.

One significant difference is that these discussions took place during public meetings and residents were allowed to ask questions. The previous board also had an architect make an on-site inspection and as I recall some residents who showed an interest were allowed to accompany the architect. The architect also attended public meetings to answer resident questions.

Did they have an architect do an on-site inspection and prepare a report. If so, why hasn't it been shared with residents. Has anyone seen a conceptual drawing of how the new offices will be configured?

How about handicapped accessibility. How about access by firefighting equipment. There is only one access road. When Oxford Crossing was first built there was a second access road; however, it was closed off shortly after the buildings were occupied. I don't remember exactly why--I have been told that it was because of the close proximity to the Imperial Drive exit to Tibbitts Road that is heavily used and because of the slope of the driveway that made it difficult to maneuver during the winter months. Maybe it was a little of both. I would like some clarification as to why the access was closed since the present town board has said that they think that they may be able to reopen it. Does anyone on the town board know why the second access road was closed in the first place or did they even realize that it was closed? If it can't be reopened, how would it affect the flow of traffic in and out of the parking lots? Would it cause a safety issue?

Are there adequate parking spaces--just how many parking spaces are there? How many is required for the intended use of this building? Will some of these spaces be used to park police vehicles? If so, how about the visibility when police cars need to rush to a call--will drivers on Tibbitts Road see the police vehicles in time to react? Living in the area, I have seen many times that police cars have sped out of the police station to respond to a call. At least at the corner, other vehicles have a good chance of seeing the police car since the area is so wide open. What about visitors to 1 Oxford Crossing or the other buildings in Oxford Crossing? Could they possibly slow the response time of police by blocking the exit as they wait for traffic on Tibbitts Road to clear?

Why are they moving 8 or 9 people into 6,000 square feet. Why aren't they moving everyone out of Butler Hall to at least save the rent paid for that building?

How about moving expenses? What costs are included in the $500,000 for renovations? Do they have a handout showing the projected renovation costs so residents can analyze whether or not the town board is being realistic with their estimate.

How about a chart showing maintenance and operation costs since taxpayers will be asked to fund these costs in future budget years?

The town board needs to answer questions regarding the $4.6+ million bond proposals before the voters on March 29, 2007 and we hope that they will be better prepared to do just that on February 28th than they have been at previous meetings.

Please watch our blog as we once again look at each proposal and present documentation that we have obtained that appears to leave many questions for which there has yet to be any answers given.

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