Schenectady County

Rehabilitation of Grange Hall could soon get started

Long-planned work to rehabilitate Niskayuna’s historic Grange Hall could begin as early as this summ

Long-planned work to rehabilitate Niskayuna’s historic Grange Hall could begin as early as this summer, officials said this week.

But a completion date remained uncertain, with cost and funding factors expected to determine when a local environmental group can finally call the hall home.

The first official movement came this week at a Niskayuna Town Board meeting, with the approval of measures to get preliminary work started. The board approved an agreement with the Schenectady architectural firm Stracher-Roth-Gilmore to revise renovation plans in accordance with comments made by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

The Grange Hall was added to both the state and national registers of historic places last year.

The agreement is not to exceed $10,000, with the town reimbursed by the Environmental Clearing House of Schenectady.

Once the new plans are in hand, they’ll be able to go out for bid and get a better idea on the total cost, town Supervisor Joe Landry said.

The board also approved an agreement with Curtin Archaeological Consulting Inc., to do phase 1 of a survey at the site. That cost is to be $4,700, with ECOS also reimbursing the town.

“I feel that a restored grange would greatly enhance the town’s image. In addition, it would provide restored space for town activities, as well as ECOS activities,” ECOS board member and chair of its property committee Jacqueline Skolnik told the town board.

Later, Jon Tobiessen, president of the ECOS board, said foundation work could be begin later this year.

The plan has been to use town parks money and grants to repair the building, then lease it to ECOS. In 2009, the group said it already raised $71,000 through other grants.

ECOS, founded in 1971, has been housed at the Niskayuna Community Center since moving out of the deteriorating Aqueduct House in 2004.

The plan to move into the grange has been in the works since ECOS moved from the Aqueduct House, but those plans were dealt a setback in December 2007, when bids for work came in more than $100,000 higher than expected. Officials had been expecting numbers then around $175,000.

The Grange Hall is located on Rosendale Road, at the entrance to the main trail into the Lisha Kill Preserve, which is owned by The Nature Conservancy. It was a one-room schoolhouse as early as the 1860s and served that purpose until 1915, when it closed. By 1935, it became the hall for the farmers’ fraternal organization. Niskayuna purchased the property in 1989.

Town board members said they were happy to see the project moving.

Board member Denise Murphy McGraw said she regularly passes the hall with her 10-year-old daughter, and she regularly asks about it.

“I’m very eager to have her go in there and have it be a part of her life,” McGraw said.

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