Though it seems like just yesterday that a former schoolhouse was renovated and expanded to serve as Gardiner’s Town Hall, maintenance was not made a high priority, and the building soon found itself in need of some improvements. The front steps leading to the main entrance to the Justice Court were crumbling, and water had infiltrated around the windows and under the siding.
Fortunately, the New York State Unified Court System offers annual grants to municipalities to improve their courthouses through the Justice Court Assistance Program (JCAP). “Jean Savago, our court clerk, is instrumental in receiving this grant. She applies every year,” said Gardiner Town Supervisor Marybeth Majestic. “This year we applied for $30,000 and received $18,500.” That proved enough to spruce up the entryway to the courtroom in a big way, and most of that work is now complete.
Majestic gave the New Paltz Times a “grand tour” of the handsome new front porch of the Town of Gardiner Justice Court. A new chrome-green aluminum commercial door has been installed; “The last one was a residential door that didn’t take the weather,” the supervisor explained. “They worked with what they had.”
But the changeover to the heavier-duty door brought some design challenges with it. “It’s four inches taller than the door that used to be here,” said Majestic. The old doorframe had to be cut out, with the result that the new porch is now flush with the sill. “You used to come out and walk down a step. It wasn’t flush. It was hazardous.”
Now a person exits the courthouse steps evenly out onto a new brushed-concrete surface that should provide good footing even in wet or freezing weather. “The old landing had mosaic-like pieces of bluestone, which allowed water in,” the supervisor recalled. The bluestone fragments couldn’t be salvaged, but in other respects the renovation recycles as many sound old components as possible, including the “panic bar” and other door hardware.
The steel railings were also repurposed, but had to be modified to compensate for the change in door height. “Rusty McCord of McCord Welding volunteered his services,” Majestic said. The adapted railings now sit on steel plates donated by Fall Fittings, and the railings were installed and painted flat black by Majestic’s husband, Charlie. Bob Colucci of Ultimate Homes and Dan Auerbach of D & A Concrete Contractor, Inc. were the two contractors retained by the town for the bulk of the work.
In Colucci’s original price quote, said Majestic, it was projected that 60 square feet of rotten siding near the front entranceway would have to be replaced. But opening a wall to discover the extent of water damage is always a dicey proposition, and the problem turned out to be worse than it looked from the outside. Pointing to the green-painted fishscale shingles that adorn the belfry over the front door, Majestic said, “Where the fancy shingles meet the siding, the water was running behind it.” There was no vapor barrier or flashing, nor any aluminum wrapping of the window and door openings. But luckily, the shingles didn’t need to come off; the contractor found that he “could slide Tyvek up underneath,” and he “wrapped everything.”
There’s still painting left to do around the front entryway, as elsewhere on the historic schoolhouse’s exterior. If any funds are left over from the JCAP grant, Majestic’s first priority is to finish off the blacktop between the bottom of the concrete porch and the parking lot, and then to replace the gutters and downspouts on a small flat-roofed section of the building’s east side, in order to prevent further water damage from rain pooling on the flat roof. The supervisor hopes to obtain future JCAP funding to replace the rest of the building’s inadequate exterior doors; meanwhile, a dedicated Town Hall maintenance fund is available to powerwash, prime and paint the rest of the building’s exterior. “I want the windows painted green,” she said, to recapture the look of the schoolhouse’s original green shutters.
Folks with business at the Justice Court or wishing to attend board and committee meetings in Town Hall will enjoy easier access — in and out. “It’s safer, and I think it’s much more presentable,” said Majestic. “I think it’ll last a really long time.”