Montgomery County officials broke ground for the Shared Services Facility at the Glen Canal View Business Park on Thursday.
County Executive Matt Ossenfort said the project might be the most controversial one so far during his two-term tenure leading the county government, but only because of its $13 million cost. He said in the long run, county residents will see improved services and ultimately lower costs from the new facility.
“This is probably one of the bigger county projects in decades, and it hasn’t gotten done because it certainly has a big price tag, but it’s absolutely necessary, and I think we exhausted all of our options pulling in resources for this,” Ossenfort said. “When it was time to make a decision, I was so thankful the legislature chose to move forward, and all of the work that went into this is going to pay off.”
Montgomery County Economic Development Director Ken Rose said he anticipates the new facility will be complete in approximately 14 months.
The county legislature voted 6-3 in November in favor of the county bonding $12.7 million to hire a construction firm to build the new facility. Voting against the bond were Brian Sweet (D-2), John Thayer (D-3) and Robert Purtell (D-9). In 2019, the legislature voted 8-1 to borrow $750,000 to hire an engineering firm to design the plan for the project, with only Purtell voting no that time.
Officials said the project aims to solve two longstanding county problems: relocating the the county Department of Public Works and Business Development Center out of the Mohawk River flood plain, where they sustained an estimated $300,000 worth of damage during flooding in 2011 and 2007, and helping the county to fill-out the remaining 25 acres of undeveloped land in the 84-acre Glen Canal View business Park.
One of the arguments made in favor of the $13 million project was the estimated $6 million cost of providing flood mitigation and repair upgrades to the county’s existing DPW building and the Old County Courthouse building where the Business Development Center is currently located.
Rose said the Old County Courthouse does have impressive vintage architecture and furniture, but the meeting space for the county Industrial Development Agency inside the building is not handicap accessible. He said the old building also has “cracked windows” part of its lack of energy efficiency, in addition to a poor temperature control system.
Rose said the new Business Development Center will be energy efficient and look at the most state of the art office spaces available to economic development agencies throughout the Capital Region.
“Obviously when we’re entertaining businesses at the county, being able to bring them to offices in a facility like this is a much better image to those private sector companies, showing that we are proactive and progressive and moving forward,” he said.
DPW Commissioner Eric Mead spoke at the groundbreaking. He said moving the county DPW is the right idea, and he quipped that his new office “will be bigger” than Rose’s.
“Between the condition of our current building and the potential for future flooding, moving our facilities to the new location is the most viable option,” Mead said.
Ossenfort said there will also be an electric vehicle charging station as part of the new complex, making it viable for the county to convert some of its vehicle fleet, including cars used for Department of Social Services calls, to electric. He said the county’s Board of Elections and Historian will likely absorb the office space currently being used by the county’s Business Development Center.