The Gardiner Town Board voted to put the abandoned old Fire Department station and lot on the market, after some dynamic debate.
“We approved a motion to list this property as surplus property,” said Town Board member Warren Wiegand at last week’s board meeting. He went on to state that in his estimation, the abandoned building on the property was a hazard and a liability. “It’s been vacant for years since we relocated our library in a new building, and I believe it has very limited value for the town, but would have greater value if we sold it and reapplied those assets towards other town projects.”
Town Board member Carmine Mele disagreed. “I don’t believe the town could ever reasonably afford a piece of property in the hamlet in the future, yet we have one now. Forget its historical value, which is significant, but think about the next great idea that we may have for the hamlet — yet no town-owned property to do it with? I think if we sell this property, we’re making a huge mistake, as our options in the hamlet in the future are extremely limited at best.”
Wiegand was backed by Town Board member Michael Reynolds, who said that he felt the abandoned building was becoming a liability to the town and he agreed that it should be sold as surplus property to help fund other town projects. “A lot of people have come forward to say that they wanted to ‘save’ the old fire station, but nothing has been done, nothing has been proposed in five or more years. That building has sat stagnant, and I had hoped that someone would come forward with a vision and a fundraiser for it, but no one has. I’d rather see it go to someone who wants to create a business in the hamlet, as there is very little happening in the hamlet.”
Mele took great exception to Reynolds’ statements. “You really want to go on the record stating that there’s nothing happening in our hamlet?” he said, dismayed, noting that in his estimation the Gardiner hamlet was in the throes of a renaissance, with so many active, popular businesses, the rail trail and more. Town Board member Rich Koenig concurred with Mele in his belief that this was a valuable, historical property that should not be sold by the town.
Residents spoke up, including Beth and Jim Freer who referenced an old “gentlemen’s agreement” between the town and the Fire Department that they believed was made on an old-fashioned handshake. “The Fire Department, realizing that the town needed a library, granted them the use of their building,” said Beth Freer. “That was back when Gardiner was a solid community. There was a need, the Fire Department granted that need, but it was always with the understanding that the town would return that property once their need for a library was no longer.” Jim Freer said that he still had pictures of his Dad at the former Fire Department location in an “open-bed firetruck,” and that he too believed that when the town no longer needed to house a library, that they’d return that property.
Supervisor Carl Zatz said that, while he considered their revisionist history compelling, he had researched the “minutes of that meeting and that in no uncertain terms, the Fire Department granted the Town Board that property, and pledged that they did not want it back! So your mythology is intriguing, but the reality is much different.” Zatz noted that they could use the money for that sale to purchase a portion of the Kiss My Face Property in the hamlet and add another 15 parking spaces for the rail trail.
“They are great people,” said Zatz of the Freers, “but their recollection of history is not at all reflected in the minutes, which state undeniably that this property was given to the town without any desire that it be returned, ever.”
The board voted 3-2 to put the old Fire Department parcel on the market.