Delaware board hears proposal for new Public Works site

Sarah Eames | The Daily Star Public Works Commissioner Sue McIntyre presents proposals Wednesday for the relocation of the department to the Delaware County Board of Supervisors.

DELHI — Public Works Commissioner Sue McIntyre presented Wednesday to the Delaware County Board of Supervisors a proposal for the relocation of the department’s headquarters.

“Since my appointment as commissioner this time last year, I have spent the entirety of 2019, among other things, looking for reasonable alternate homes for our DPW building, and we have been in discussions with a good 8 individuals covering 12 different properties,” McIntyre said. “Geography matters, so we were picky about who we spoke to.”

“It was very important that we had property that was a reasonable size, that was out of the flood plain, that did not affect agriculture, and that, to the best of our abilities, had a willing seller at or near appraised value,” she continued.

The proposal calls for the relocation of the diesel equipment mechanics shop to a 2.2-acre parcel adjacent to the county’s Solid Waste Management Center on Neale Road in the town of Walton, the purchase of which the county approved last year.

The gasoline equipment mechanics shop would remain at the Wickham building, part of the department’s current complex on Page Avenue in Delhi, McIntyre said.

“We would put some investments in there to improve their energy efficiency and the longevity of the buildings, but otherwise have no new construction associated with the existing property,” McIntyre said.

Equipment for the two highway patrol units currently based in Delhi would be relocated to a 6-acre property in Bloomville, behind the Kortright Town Hall. Because the land is owned by the town, it is already off the tax roll, McIntyre said.

The department’s administrative offices would remain on the county’s Page Avenue property, but would be relocated to a new structure slated for construction at the corner of Bridge and Main streets, presently known as the Stoddard lot, McIntyre said.

Pending board approval, potentially as early as the February meeting, the project can expect to break ground by 2021, according to McIntyre.

The proposed $20 million budget for the project is all-inclusive, McIntyre said, and would cover the costs of designing, engineering and construction, as well as the demolition of the central Page Avenue building, which was constructed in the 1800s as a factory for the Delhi Silk Company.

“This particular buildout proposal allows us to build in stages as needed, in order to accommodate cash flow,” McIntyre said.

“The money you have in reserve will be enough to begin the project and get it developed in a number of phases, and by the time additional money is needed, the debt we have for the public safety building will have been completed, so that any new money needed for this would not be additional tax money,” said Art Merrill, Colchester town supervisor and county budget officer. “We already have it in the budget.”

Acknowledging a previous proposal to purchase and develop a 213-acre agricultural parcel in the town of Delhi, known as the McFarland property, Andes Town Supervisor Bud Gladstone said: “I think it’s important to not take any agriculture land, especially prime agriculture land. That’s a very valuable resource that we have in this county, and I think it’s the county’s responsibility to help maintain that.”

Noting that the McFarland property was the only viable consolidated location outside the flood plain, Middletown Town Supervisor Pat Davis cited a 2017 engineering study that indicated a consolidated relocation would be about $45 million cheaper than dispersing the services across the county.

“Now we’re going to take the largest structure and capital project that we’ve ever done in the county — and a critical facility, that we have to have active during emergencies — and we’re going to break it up into four pieces and spread it throughout the county,” Davis said. “How is that going to be cheaper, more organized and more efficient? It’s not.”

“I don’t think that we have the political will or the votes to move forward into that site, so we’re moving into the next-best site,” he said.

“We had a vote on this two years ago, and McFarland was taken off the list,” Merrill said. “(The committee has) done an excellent job honoring that decision by the board and sticking with it — I commend them on that.”

The board also approved a resolution creating a new position in the Social Services Department in response to “recent changes in the distribution of duties and responsibilities within the Department,” according to the resolution.

Several years ago, the department was managed by a director of services and a director of programs, both of whom answered directly to the deputy commissioner and commissioner, according to Wayne Marshfield, Hamden town supervisor and chair of the Social Services committee.

When the director of services position was eliminated, the duties and responsibilities were delegated to the deputy commissioner, Marshfield said.

In January, the board named former deputy commissioner Sylvia Armano to lead the department. Armano had served as acting commissioner since July, when her predecessor, Dana Scuderi-Hunter, was placed on paid administrative leave.

Because a new deputy commissioner has yet to be appointed, Armano has filled all three roles in the interim, Marshfield said.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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