New Paltz Town Board members have voted to purchase the property at 59 North Putt Corners Road to bring the police and justice court back under the same roof for the first time since police left their cramped quarters on Plattekill Avenue during the Hokanson administration. In addition to being met with approval by town justices and police officials, the plan would get the town out of a very expensive lease for the current police station at South Putt Corners Road, which is slated to go up by $90,000 this year and more each year thereafter. The purchase price is $1.325 million, but it’s expected that converting it into a police station and courthouse will run as much as $8 million, all of which would be bonded over 25 years.
Real estate broker Matt Eyler, hired as a consultant to help resolve mounting space issues in town government, recounted how the history of that process predates his own involvement. An ad-hoc committee comprised in part of former supervisors was formed eight years ago to make recommendations to address the fact that much of the town government space is in some way a costly rental. In addition to the price of the police lease spiraling higher and higher, town employees have for years been working in trailers after being evacuated from the old town hall due to mold. That building has been demolished, but efforts to replace it — with a joint village-town municipal center or a new town hall — have not yet born fruit. With the lease for the police space on South Putt Corners Road expiring in 2021 and no progress yet made on negotiating a new one, Eyler successfully negotiated an offer on a steel frame building which happens to be right next door to what will soon be the only firehouse in town.
Once a full second floor is put in, there would be 16,800 square feet of space, which is a bit more than what’s needed for both uses. The property also has enough space that in theory a new town hall could be constructed there, if a way forward with village officials does not manifest. Benefits of putting the two together include making it easier to move suspects, as well as the implicit safety provided to court personnel by virtue of police being in the same building. The long-term cost would hit the average homeowner for about $111 per year (a 5.4% hike), but other costs will go down: rent for the police will be eliminated, and looming neglected maintenance costs for the court could continue to be deferred as town officials decide what comes next for that space on Plattekill Avenue. With the firehouse also being pulled out, it’s possible they may be able to bring town hall functions either to that building or to a new structure erected in its place.
Should the plan go through, the current occupant would lease the space through next April, and then work would begin to convert the building for town needs in time for the expiration of the police lease on August 14, 2021. The process for allowing this borrowing is a permissive referendum: it will pass automatically unless residents gather enough petition signatures in 30 days to require it be voted on by members of the public. Supervisor Neil Bettez lamented the fact that for towns, unlike schools, capital expenditures like this are still counted against the tax cap, which he feels makes long-term planning all the more difficult.