Board OKs decision to seek funding

A divided Village Board voted 3 to 2 Tuesday to continue with stalled plans to seek a state Restore

A divided Village Board voted 3 to 2 Tuesday to continue with stalled plans to seek a state Restore NY grant to rehabilitate the downtown Newberry Square building despite a plea from a Richmondville fitness center developer that it might weaken her chances to win a similar grant.

Even though Mayor Mike Sellers had previously written a letter of support for Stella McKenna’s plan to build her $4.5 million Maranatha Family Center in Warnerville, he sided with trustees Sandy MacKay and Carol McGuire to pay a consultant $4,500 to apply for the Newberry building grant.

“We are one community. I ask you to assist me and give me the opportunity,” said McKenna in attempting to convince the board that a competing grant application in the same county would be “a detriment to me.”

Although trustees William Gilmore and Mark Galasso backed McKenna’s plan to reapply for a $2.5 million state grant that was not funded last year, MacKay was adamant that village officials should pursue a grant for the landmark Newberry building in the downtown Main Street business district.

“The Newberry building is clearly the single most important rehabilitation project in the village,” MacKay said.

“The Restore NY program was designed specifically for the rehabilitation of older buildings … in central business districts.” he said.

On Aug. 19, after hearing McKenna’s appeal, the board delayed allocating funds for the contract it approved Aug. 5 with Skate Creek Consulting of East Meredith to prepare a Newberry grant application and arrange hearings.

Tuesday’s vote put those village funds for Skate Creek back on track.

Last month, Charalambos “Harry” Ioannou, owner of the 137-year-old, three-story Newberry Square building was fined $20,000 after a jury found him guilty of failing to properly secure three broken storefront window areas.

Ioannou said he plans to appeal.

Meanwhile, according to MacKay, a potential buyer is willing to rehab the building, provided government funding is available to assist in the renovations, which are estimated to require more than $1 million.

“We have two quality projects here,” MacKay said. “But the choice is clear. We must do everything we can to revitalize the village of Cobleskill.”

In backing the Maranatha project, Gilmore argued that the Newberry building’s lack of an Empire Zone location weakens its chances against the Maranatha proposal. The county is seeking state approval for zone status, with the support of officials in Richmondville.

Galasso suggested that “in a project of Stella’s magnitude … business begets business” so the county and region would benefit more from sales tax and potential additional businesses.

In response, MacKay said construction of the new center McKenna proposes along state Route 7 in Richmondville would mean her smaller Maranatha Fit for Life Health and Fitness Center on Elm Street would move out of the village.

“I already have $500,000 in the project,” McKenna told MacKay when he suggested she withdraw from potential contention for a grant.

“I have put everything I have into this project,” McKenna said.

McKenna purchased the property for $350,000 in October 2007, according to county records. The 23-acre site includes an old farmhouse and two barns McKenna said she plans to restore as “a historical restaurant.” The proposal also calls for construction of a 45,000-square-foot sports complex and a 12,000-square-foot physical therapy facility.

Noting that McKenna has stressed she has gathered strong “political support,” for her project, village Trustee McGuire suggested both plans should compete for funding.

“Let [the state] decide who’s going to get it,” McGuire said.

The Richmondville Town Board last September requested a $2.5 million state grant under the second round of three expected application periods for the Empire State Development Corp.’s Restore NY program.

It was not funded last year.

The application period for the third round of grants has not yet been announced.

Categories: Schenectady County

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