Friday, 15 October 2010 00:00
Since 1993, the village boards of trustees have been trying to find a suitable use for the St. Paul’s Main Building at an affordable cost to the taxpayers. A quick look at the village website will show you the list of studies that were done over the past 17 years which sadly have produced no satisfactory result.
The main goal of the purchase of the St. Paul’s property was the acquisition of the much-needed playing fields. Although it was hoped that the main building could be converted for public use, in 1993 there was no such plan in place. In fact, preserving the green space and fields was the primary purpose of the purchase. Preserving the building for public use was to be done if feasible. And we have spent the last 17 years studying the feasibility with no solution.
Throughout the past 17 years, a number of studies were commissioned by our mayors and village boards. Professional architects, engineers, financial and real estate experts were retained to explore the feasibility of converting the main building for public use. Concomitantly, committees made up of residents, who are also professionals in these fields, were appointed to review the report of each consultant and make recommendations to the village boards.
Proposals to convert the main building for use as Village Hall, the police and fire departments, the Recreation Department, a senior center, a youth center, a public high school and a public library have all been carefully scrutinized. Mayors and boards of trustees, the board of education, the Property Owners’ Associations, and many residents have given serious consideration to every consultant’s findings and every committee report on each proposal for public use.
In 2005, a village-wide public opinion poll, sponsored by all four Property Owners’ Associations and tabulated by Adelphi University, showed that the majority of the several thousand participants did not want to spend tax dollars on the building for public use. With the results of that poll in mind, coupled with the results of the village-wide public opinion poll held by the Eastern and Estates POAs in December, 2008, pursuant to law, the village board took the first step towards holding a formal bond referendum for the purpose of demolition of the main building and Ellis Hall by authorizing an Environmental Impact Study on Open Space. The required Draft Environmental Impact Study has been available for several months. It is very thorough and covers the impact of demolition on our community.
At this time, the board of trustees is collecting all written and verbal opinions on the Draft Environmental Impact Study on Open Space, which will be included in the required Statement of Findings, which will be considered before they vote to authorize a bond referendum.
While we are not as a group advocating a position on demolition, one way or the other, we believe that a bond referendum on demolition is fair and appropriate. The time has come for the taxpayers to have the opportunity to formally vote on the issue just as they were offered the opportunity to vote to purchase St. Paul’s; and because, for the past 17 years, thousands upon thousands of tax dollars have paid for a myriad of studies to retrofit the main building for proposed uses, for general maintenance and repairs with no end in sight, and for the cost of two lawsuits brought against the village by the proponents of a public use.
A referendum will allow voters to formally say whether or not they approve the amount that will officially be on the ballot. The contractor will be chosen by a formal bid process. A positive vote would authorize the Board to issue bonds, up to the specified amount. It does not order them to immediately do so. In fact, the board of trustees has 10 years to issue the bonds for demolition.
As past mayors of Garden City, we believe that it is time for taxpayers to be given the opportunity to vote on the course of action they wish to take on the building, which has been an open-ended issue for 17 years. We ask you to urge the village board not to disenfranchise the residents on this extremely sensitive issue, but to go forward with a bond referendum.
Peter A. Bee
Brian T. Deveney
Harold P. Hecken
Allen S. Mathers