Written by Carisa Giardino Friday, 28 August 2009 00:00
Trustees approved a $15,300 expenditure for emergency roofing repairs to the St. Paul’s Main Building. Many residents, however, questioned why the village continues to shell out money on a building they say is slated for the wrecking ball.
“It’s like putting new tires on a car before you turn it in,” Grove Street’s Bob Orosz chided. “Why spend all this money when the building is marked for demolition?”
Mayor Robert Rothschild, who reminded residents that no final decision has been made to demolish the Main Building, said it’s a safety issue. “We don’t want the roof falling in.”
Village Administrator Robert Schoelle, Jr. said that the work was not put out to bid since it was deemed an emergency. “Since we’ve owned the building we’ve obviously maintained it as best we can to keep it in a safe and secure manner. The winter months are very, very hard on the building. It takes a rather harsh beating with the loss of roofing material and holes appear in the roof,” Schoelle said. “We’re not sure of the magnitude of the repairs.”
After the winter months, holes often appear in the roof. Spot repairs are performed to prevent water intrusion and unwanted animals from entering the aging, vacant building. “In the early spring of each year we have a roofer come in and inspect the roof by quite literally climbing around each of the surfaces and repairing as inexpensively but as effectively as possible the holes in the roof,” Schoelle said.
Arnold Finnamore of Tanners Pond Road doesn’t see the sense in paying for consultants - and the demolition process itself - while at the same time spending money to keep the building going through extensive maintenance. “We’re spending a lot of money on surveys for the demolition of the building,” he said. “So we can’t see the value of an emergency expenditure of that amount to maintain a building, which has no heat and no water allegedly, to keep it going, to keep maintaining it.”
Trustee Nick Episcopia said the board is preparing for a bond referendum so the residents of Garden City can vote on whether to tear down the building or find an alternative use for it. “It could very well be that the people do not vote for demolition. In that case, the expenditure of $15,300 dollars to keep the roof from falling in is probably justified. It’s not us. It’s a bond referendum,” Episcopia said.
This became a heated topic back in March when then-Deputy Mayor Tom Lamberti argued similar points, criticizing the village’s decision to continue paying consultants and an environmental law firm to research the demolition option while spending some $171,000 annually to heat the empty building.
“If we continue funding the heating of this building, then there’s no reason to fund an expense to take it down,” Lamberti, who urged fellow board members to remove the heating expenditure during budget talks earlier this year.
A prepared Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) reportedly cost the village $35,000. Trustees engaged Sive Paget & Riesel, P.C., an environmental law firm, to determine whether or not an EIS was even necessary. When the firm deemed such was, trustees then retained a consultant to coordinate the EIS.
Some residents argued a public referendum should have taken place first. “There’s no point in having all these people, and all these consultants and all these attorneys and so on if finally it goes to a vote and it gets voted down,” Orosz said back in March. “Why don’t we vote for it first to see if there’s enough people out there who want to vote for demolition and then go forward with these attorneys, consultants and so on.”
Lamberti fought to minimize expenses in this serious financial crisis. “In reality, if we don’t stop [paying to heat the building] now, then we’re buying into a continuous maintenance factor for the future, which could be four or five years, which could amount to a million dollars,” he said.
“You can’t have it both ways. You can’t fund experts to take the building down at the same time you’re going to fund to keep the building heated.”
Trustees eventually agreed to no longer heat the Main Building at St. Paul’s. This winter will be the first the building will not have heat.