By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star
---- — A long-disused armory, an acoustically challenged theater and high-traffic sidewalks will be beneficiaries of New York state grants announced this week.
The armory in Walton is known locally as the castle. It was built in the 1890s and sold to a private owner in 1965. Since then, it has been owned by several parties. Until recently, when new owners began restoration work, it had fallen into disrepair.
The $194,000 Empire State Development grant is expected to move along the process of turning the crenellated, red-brick building into a conference center, hotel and site for community events, such as wedding receptions.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” Patrick Meredith, mayor of Walton village, said Thursday. “It’s going to bring a lot.”
“That castle … has been sitting dormant for a number of years now, and it’s been a subject of vandalism, with kids breaking windows, but it’s always been a big historical thing in the village in this town,” he added.
Meredith praised the current owners for what they’ve done so far.
“They’ve redone the entire ballroom – the back room there,” he said. “It’s a very big room. They have redone the floors. They’ve added some booths. They have a nice stage they built, as well as a bar area. They have really sunk a lot of money in so far.”
In Oneonta, acoustics at the Foothills Performing Arts Center have been a longstanding problem, and a $50,000 Empire State Development grant will go toward the acquisition of an orchestral shell, Mayor Dick Miller said.
Miller said the performing arts center, for which he is a board member, had sought a $250,000 grant that would have helped finance a full acoustical treatment for the theater – a $450,000 project.
“There are four or five different things we want to do, the largest of which is the orchestral shell,” Miller said. “But there are other things: carpets, drapes on the walls an enhanced sound system, sound-block doors, etc. that we are not going to be able to do.”
“I believe with this grant and some other funds that we can identify … we’ll be able to go ahead with the shell, which is the critical piece,” he added. “Everything else is frosting on the cake.”
“The acoustical shell will make an enormous difference,” he said.
Cooperstown, too, will have to deal with a grant that fell short of what it requested.
“We put in for a $1.9 million grant for the Green Innovation Grant Program, and basically it would be to reconstruct all of Main Street’s sidewalks,” Mayor Jeff Katz said.
The project started out as a simple desire to replace the heavily used Main Street sidewalks, he said.
“Next time you’re in the village and walk Main Street, really look down,” he said. “There’s a lot of cracking and heaving. Some of the patches are with asphalt.”
But, after consulting with its engineer, Katz said, the village saw an opportunity with the grants to replace the sidewalks and take a forward-looking approach by mitigating storm water runoff into Otsego Lake with permeable pavement and planters.
“So we put in for that whole thing, and we got about a third of it,” he said. “Not everything we wanted, but a good start.”
How much of the work can be done with the $636,854 grant the village will receive from Department of Environmental Facilities, remains to be seen, Katz said.
“We would have to go back to our engineer,” he said.