There have been many projects proposed at various planning and municipal board meetings in New Paltz, and not all of them advance quickly enough to stay in the public consciousness. That’s why the New Paltz Times chased down a few of these loose ends to learn what would be required to tie them up. After being mired in litigation and the planning process for years, the Hampton Inn in New Paltz is scheduled to open in late September. The town’s newest hotel will have a pool, and it’s going to use gunite to keep the water in, rather than a liner, according to site manager Jordan Flohr, who took a break from off-loading building materials with a forklift. He also said that opening is now expected to occur in late September. “The outside’s mostly done but for the paving,” he said, as well as the pool, which will have a speckled blue color inside. One section of siding has yet to be completed, to provide access to construction crew members who have mostly finished the internal systems and are now working floor by floor on such items as door frames and paint.
Shared municipal center
The idea of combining town and village governments in one building arose because there was an urgent need to replace Town Hall, while the village offices have been inadequate for some time. An ad-hoc town committee recommended an architect, who then drew up plans for a building to meet the needs of both governments where the mold-riddled former Town Hall still stands.
What became apparent is that such a structure could cost far more than taxpayers would be able to swallow. According to Town Supervisor Neil Bettez, the plans created by architect Joseph Hurwitz “would ruin the tax cap,” adding $200 or more to the average property tax bill if the municipalities simply borrowed money. “There will be savings,” Bettez said, including no longer having to rent trailer space for offices, but it wouldn’t be enough.
A $10 million prize from the state, called the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, won’t be awarded to New Paltz for this project, but some ideas arose as local decision makers put together an application for that money. Bettez said that another potential source for funds is the NY Rising pot of money, which is intended to make communities more resilient in the face of climate change. It’s already in the works for that money to be used to build a new fire station west of the Wallkill, and upgrade station 2 so that it can serve as the main fire station for the village department. Bettez said he’d like to look into also locating the town courts at the present station 2, which might lead to tapping into state money reserved for consolation efforts.
Despite the cost and inconvenience of those trailers on Clearwater Road, Bettez said he has no interest in “rushing into” a decision that could result in much higher taxes for a long, long time. On the other hand, those trailers have costs beyond the rental and the heating bills. For one, there’s no easy way to get there without a car. For another, they aren’t quite so safe as a permanent building. “We have to shut down Town Hall due to a tornado warning,” Bettez said, and that’s not something he wants to be a regular issue. Even so, the supervisor says that with regard to tax money, “I’m very cheap.”
Both Bettez and village mayor Tim Rogers hinted that another possible path forward for a shared municipal center would be revealed at their next joint meeting on Thursday, July 21, 7:30 p.m., at the Community Center, but neither would provide even the vaguest of details.
Demolishing Town Hall
Even if a joint municipal center — or just a Town Hall — is not built at 1 Veterans Drive, the old Town Hall must eventually be torn down. That’s not an easy process, but it should be completed by year’s end.
Highway Superintendent Chris Marx is overseeing that process because he’s also head of buildings and grounds. He explained that there are many regulations regarding building demolition, mostly designed to keep toxic substances from ending up in the nearby environment. Town Hall has a known mold problem, and is old enough that it must also be tested for asbestos. Those issues must be addressed before the bulldozers are called in.
Marx said that his employees have removed everything of value that they could access without using special protective gear, and he’s also made arrangements for the Department of Motor Vehicles van to use the parking lot of the VFW hall on Route 208, thanks to the assistance of member Pete Savago. The van requires electricity and wireless access, meaning that those utilities couldn’t be shut off until a new parking spot was arranged.
There still remains substantial paperwork in the form of a demolition report that is being prepared by town engineers. That’s put together from painstaking documentation of electrical wiring and fixtures, the report from the remediation specialist that details a remediation plan. Marx said that after that, a public bidding process will be used to find a contractor. Ideally, the remediation and demolition will be by the same contractor, he said, or state labor law requires hiring a clerk of the works to manage the process. Without that requirement, Supervisor Bettez thinks the demolition process will ultimately cost half a million dollars.
Once the actual demolition is to take place, Marx noted, the right-of-way to Cooper Street will be opened up temporarily, as it will be the only way to access the community center for the duration.
Retooling the Police Commission
Members of the prior Town Board replaced citizens volunteers on the Police Commission with themselves, reasoning that it’s elected officials who make budget decisions. That system has worked out well for Police Chief Joseph Snyder, who finds working with Town Board members directly is much more efficient than the old system. According to Supervisor Bettez, the old Police Commissioners had Snyder providing a considerable number of reports, using time that Bettez would prefer to see used for police work.
However, Bettez said, both he and Snyder recognize the importance of civilian oversight during this period of heightened tensions in police relations nationally. A proposal that is now under consideration would include both elected officials and resident volunteers on a reformed Police Commission, which might provide the best of both worlds. What’s not clear is if such a hybrid model is legal. That’s something that Bettez has tasked town attorneys to ascertain.
The Moriello Pool opening was delayed until July 2 this year, but the liner was repairable, thanks in part to the maintenance performed by town buildings and grounds employees over the years. “We’ve gotten 15 years out of a ten-year liner,” said Supervisor Bettez. The pool repair professionals were especially impressed by previous liner repairs that supervisor Chris Marx had made. “They said he could be a professional,” according to Bettez.
However, this liner is more than past its useful life, and to keep it is to expect to have to do these kinds of repairs every single year from here on out. Instead, once the pool is drained and a thorough inspection is made, Bettez wants to come up with a plan to either replace the liner, or in the alternative to line the pool with gunite. This is an opportune time, because the town’s new engineering firm, Barton & Loguidice, has pool experts on staff to advise on the process.
87 Motel site
87 Motel owner Jay Thiese didn’t initially just want to tear down the old structure. Rather, he had plans for what he called Hidden Ridge Apartments to put up in the motel’s place. With no access to municipal water, that idea dried up and Thiese instead applied for the demolition permit.
The site might have had appropriate water access, but for the sudden change in the quality of the aquifer under the Turk property, where the proposed Wildberry Lodge water park may someday stand. That aquifer had been part of plans to create a backup municipal water supply, but the most recent tests suddenly showed the water was salty enough that it would cost, according to Supervisor Bettez, double or triple for treatment than what was initially expected.
“Everyone was pretty surprised by the results,” Bettez said. One theory to explain the change is the fact that salt sheds for Thruway snow removal were once sited on the property, but the extreme depth of the wells — 600 feet or more — was expected to prevent any such contamination.
There are no other plans for a water district in the area, meaning that anything built on the site of the old 87 Motel will have to depend upon on-site wells.
The environmental impact statement for the Wildberry Lodge water park was not expected until after the water issues were resolved, meaning that the project can move forward. However, if the site isn’t to be used to supply water to residents, the required sewer treatment plant is likely to be on owner Steve Turk’s dime. Turk was unavailable to comment in time for this issue, but agreed to an interview at an unspecified future date.
Stop & Shop closing?
Tops Friendly Markets, a full-service grocery retailer based in the Buffalo area, announced late Wednesday, July 13 that the company has entered into agreements to acquire the Stop & Shop supermarkets in New Paltz, Rhinebeck, Wappingers Falls and Gardner, Massachusetts and the Hannaford supermarkets in LaGrangeville and Carmel. Upon completion of these purchases, the stores will be rebannered and operated under the Tops Markets name.
The transactions are contingent on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s approval and clearance of the merger between the Ahold and Delhaize Group. The process could take several months, Tops said.
“We are very excited about this growth opportunity for Tops, especially since these stores are a natural extension of our current footprint,” said Frank Curci, Tops Markets’ chairman and CEO. “We are looking forward to having these stores, the associates and the surrounding communities become part of the Tops family, and for both our customers and us, it will be business as usual.”
Trailways bus terminal
Residents of Prospect Street were largely horrified at the idea that the Trailways bus terminal there might be expanding to better serve the needs of residents who don’t wish to drive. Instead, they encouraged looking at alternatives, including retooling the park & ride on North Chestnut; that property has since been sold, and is part of the Zero Place application.
Mayor Tim Rogers was unable to provide much of an update on the bus terminal proposal, only that county officials have yet to issue a final report on the subject.
Sidewalks on Henry W and Huguenot
A federal grant to fill in some critical sidewalk gaps in the village to the tune of $200,000 seemed like a dream come true, until the details were known. Designed for much larger projects, the grant program was not only inflexible (use all the money, or receive none of it), but also carried with it a requirement for frequent, expensive inspections. The original plan would have cost less to pay for without the grant, but a new configuration expands the project enough to make it more worthwhile. Stone from Plattekill Avenue will be used along Huguenot Street, and be replaced with a safer sidewalk at that location. The village will have to borrow $60,000 above and beyond the $50,000 budgeted for this work.
The reason for the borrowing is that the project must “show some movement in 2016” to get funded, Rogers said. There are still some meetings left with federal DOT staff members to finalize the new design, but the mayor is confident that hurdle will be met.