ROTTERDAM — Earlier this week, Rotterdam town officials reached a deal with ViaPort Rotterdam — four months after its new GOP leadership tossed out a lease agreement with mall proprietors.
Under negotiated terms, barring both parties from legal discourse, town officials will retrieve a $1 million security deposit and the Florida-based company will get $243,750. The agreement was approved by the Town Board Wednesday night.
Only Town Board member Samantha Miller-Herrera voted against the measure out of concern that Rotterdam lawmakers were left in the dark during negotiations.
Negotiations between the town of Rotterdam and ViaPort have been ongoing since the summer. Town attorney Jonathon Tingley recommended passing the final terms on Oct. 21 in a memo to Supervisor Mollie Collins.
“Authorizing this settlement would eliminate uncertainty, promptly resolve the dispute, would result in a savings of potential attorneys’ fees and would result in payment of a mere fraction of what otherwise would be due during the full lease term,” Tingley wrote.
The past Democratic administration signed off on a deal last November to retrofit town operations into the old Kmart — a move intended to move municipal units closer together and sell off the aging John F. Kirvin Government Center. Most offices would’ve moved to ViaPort by March under the previous plan.
The town deposited $1 million in American Rescue Plan funds on the space in December 2021.
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Board members flipped their support for the project in July after learning more about the project’s price tag, following a study finalized by Barton & Loguidice earlier in the summer. The study said it would cost $9.2 million to move in — about double what was expected — and $54.7 million in maintenance expenses over a 30-year-period — some $20 million more than the current town hall.
Collins accused the former administration of handing over the outdated numbers on the mall project and improperly authorizing the ARPA-laden down payment.
Upon revelations surfacing from the study, a spate of residents blasted the deal for lacking transparency and applauded the board for annulling the lease agreement back in July.
Resident Frank Natali expressed frustration at the Wednesday meeting about forking over settlement money, which is expected after ViaPort sends a wire transfer. Town Board member Evan Christou responded later in the meeting that the sum costs much less than it could’ve been if negotiations continued.
“So I don’t look at it as 250,000 and 1 million,” Christou said. “I look at 250,000 and about 5 million, which is less than 5% settlement to get out of this deal, which clearly the public does not want.”
The board hasn’t discussed taking any action against former leadership.
“Well, the repercussions for ViaPort is that they lost a lot of time and potential revenue,” Mastroianni said. “We’ve not really talked about any other punitive kind of repercussions.”
In a late September letter, Andy Brick, a legal representative for ViaPort, described the town’s actions as a default on the initial agreement. Brick now maintains that the controversy hasn’t negatively impacted municipal relations.
“It’s unfortunate that the idea of moving town hall down to the mall didn’t work out,” said Brick. “But ViaPort has maintained a great relationship with the town throughout and wants to make sure that occurs well into the future.”
ViaPort acquired the long-dubbed Rotterdam Square Mall in 2016 for $9 million. The 50,000-square-foot Kmart closed its doors two years later.
The proprietors are actively searching for another client to fill the vacant space in order to mitigate damages, according to Brick.
“They have some good prospects,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rotterdam’s town hall is expected to remain on Sunset Boulevard for now. Roofing repairs are an immediate priority on the board’s infrastructure agenda, Mastroianni said.
Upwards of $14 million is required in needed upgrades for the aging building.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-527-7659 or at [email protected]
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