Saugerties Town Hall has a new name: the Gregory L. Helsmoortel Town Hall, honoring the former supervisor who spearheaded the purchase and renovation of the former Markertek factory on High Street.
The April 18 vote to name the hall after Helsmoortel was unanimous – despite the presence of two Republicans on the board. Helsmoortel was not a member of any party but had received the backing of Democrats during the second half of his 12-year tenure. He was defeated last November by Kelly Myers, a Republican, who said that despite their differences she recognized how important Greg was to the town hall effort.
“Greg and I have had, at times, a contentious relationship,” Myers said. “However, given the outcome of the town hall, it is really an appropriate measure. The town resources and departments were fragmented in different places; this brings everyone together under one roof. I think it’s a beautiful building.”
The formal proclamation notes that “prior to the year 2000, Town of Saugerties departments and personnel worked in offices in various locations throughout the village and town,” making it difficult for citizens who had to deal with more than one department and for employees in different departments to collaborate.
The unanimous vote drew a round of applause.
Helsmoortel was not at the meeting, but he later said: “I’m very honored to be recognized. This is the highest praise an executive can get.”
A party for Helsmoortel on Friday, April 20 drew 172 people, the full capacity of the dining room at the Rip Van Winkle Country Club. Councilwoman Leeanne Thornton said many more had expressed interest in attending, but the hall did not have the space to accommodate them all.
A plaque stating the new name will be placed at the entrance to the building, the resolution states, while stipulating that the cost of the plaque will be met through private donations, at no cost to the taxpayers of Saugerties.
“I remember the controversy of locating a new town hall, and that was a really difficult issue,” said Councilman Fred Costello. “We don’t have that debate any longer. Time has proven it was a wise decision. It helped Markertek stay in the Saugerties community [now on Kings Highway]; it did give the town the opportunity to consolidate offices at that time and for the future, because we expanded into that space and continue to utilize it and make a number of improvements that make the county motor vehicle bus more accessible, the courts more accessible, and ongoing there will be more improvements to that space in the future. Greg was instrumental in all of those, and it was a privilege to have the opportunity to work with him.”
The resolution also notes the contribution of the town’s artistic community in creating a stunning mural in the renovated space in the ground floor, the expansion of the building to accommodate an enlarged police department following the consolidation of the town and village departments, and the addition of energy saving systems and equipment to the building.
“I have to compliment (former) councilperson Nancy Campbell who brought the local artists of all ages into the new addition on the back,” said Thornton. “People who for the first time come in through the back entrance are just in awe, and that’s a tribute to Nancy and her work with the Council of Arts. We have young pre-schoolers and senior citizens who took on that task. And kudos to our construction staff under Greg Chorvas who renovated the space for the library while the new library was being constructed. That space will now be used to house more offices, and we have a state of the art – probably the best studio on the east coast – for Lighthouse 23. It is a gem – what was once a warehouse has become a multi-use facility. It was great vision that made that come about, so I think it’s appropriate that we recognize that, and I’m happy that we are able to do this tonight.”
Costello also praised both Campbell and Chorvas, saying without their foresight and work much of the renovation of the town hall would not have been possible. Chorvas “has really created a lot of value for us as residents,” he said, noting that within a limited budget “we were able to throw big projects at him, and he always found a way to get them done.”
Town Hall houses the following offices: town supervisor, town clerk, receiver of taxes, assessor, bookkeeping, justice court, police department, probation department, HUD, Lighthouse TV, building inspector, planning & zoning, and economic development.