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Editorial: Go slow with Montgomery County office building plan

Editorial: Go slow with Montgomery County office building plan

Explore all options before making huge commitment

Montgomery County may well be having office space problems, but its leaders appear to be moving entirely too quickly on a proposal to remedy them by leasing a 90,000-square-foot building in the town of Glen that hasn’t even been built yet, for $1.1 million a year. As several current and former county legislators have noted in recent days, the county is facing quite a few economic storm clouds at the moment, and there are too many questions about where the money to pay for this extravaganza would come from.

Lawmakers should absolutely vote to table the resolution to move ahead with this proposal at tomorrow’s meeting.

Among the questions the board of supervisors first needs to answer: Is a whole new building really necessary? Admittedly, there are space problems at the Department of Social Services, and the so-called annex on Park Street in the village of Fonda is flood-prone, but does that mean all four buildings currently in use by the county should be abandoned?

What would happen to the village if all county workers were to suddenly disappear? Isn’t it bad enough that Canajoharie will soon suffer a similar disruption when Beech-Nut moves its baby food operation to the town of Florida?

If anything, the county should be thinking of ways to re-use existing buildings in existing communities (including Canajoharie) for less money. Locating to a partially-finished business park in the middle of nowhere would only exacerbate sprawl.

And why lease, rather than buy? Is it only because a simple majority of votes would be needed, instead of a two-thirds majority, as Supervisor Shayne Walters suggested in a Gazette story Friday? Does it make sense for the county to enter into a lease agreement that would require it to pay taxes for 30 years?

Finally, the money: $1.1 million, plus maintenance, utilities and the afore-mentioned taxes. Who can afford that kind of hit for so long? Raising the county mortgage tax during a housing slump isn’t a great idea, and the county sales tax is already 4 percent.

In short, this does not seem like a good time to make such a costly long-term commitment — at least not before carefully weighing other options.

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