EDITORIAL: Rotterdam board wise to keep mall option on the table

Article Audio:

Just because a plan fell through the first time doesn’t mean it was a bad idea to begin with.

So give credit to the Rotterdam Town Board for keeping an open mind on using some of the vacant space in the ViaPort Mall for government services — especially since several of the current board members voted just six months ago to negate a previous lease agreement with the mall.

Residents skeptical of the idea would also be wise to keep an open mind as town officials consider the most feasible, cost-effective ways to house town operations.

At its meeting tonight, the town board will consider signing a $50,000 contract with an Albany engineering firm to conduct a feasibility study on options for the town’s court and police.

Among the three options the study will look at is relocating town court and police operations to the mall.

If the town can get a good lease deal on the space — including a reasonable price on renovation and annual maintenance costs — the mall might be a perfect option for courts and police operations.

The mall has a lot of available space to accommodate both operations, along with plenty of convenient, handicap-accessible parking for police vehicles, town employees and citizens.

On a broader, long-term basis, it’s in the best interests of the town to do everything it can to keep the mall property viable.

While the town itself wouldn’t pay taxes by locating there, a good deal could encourage more tenants to locate at the mall, including private businesses and organizations like those planning to host bingo games there.

As more tenants move in, it’s likely to attract others. Simply having some town operations in the mall could encourage food vendors to lease space there to serve the town employees.

All that activity could keep the mall viable as a major taxpayer in the town for years to come.

Town officials, of course, must be cautious when choosing any option for upgrading, replacing or moving the town’s aging, undersized government facilities.

That means getting accurate estimates on the costs of various options, which include fixing up existing space, building new facilities or leasing the mall space.

The last lease agreement with the mall fell through, in part, because town officials didn’t follow proper state procedure for a public referendum.

They also signed the lease before commissioning an engineering study that ultimately found that retrofitting the mall space for town services would be much higher than first anticipated. And there was uncertainty over whether the town had an option to purchase the space it was leasing.

All these kinds of details need to be ironed out and reviewed by attorneys before any new deal is signed.

Despite the problems with the last effort to lease mall space, town officials are doing the right thing for taxpayers by keeping the mall option open as one potential solution for its space issues.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion, Opinion, Rotterdam

One Comment

Leave a Reply