The Saratoga County Mental Health Department, which is being forced to move out of its space at Saratoga Hospital, may relocate into an empty car dealership building on South Broadway.
The county Buildings and Grounds Committee on Tuesday recommended the county sign a lease for the former Topper Buick-Pontiac-GMC building, which has been closed since 2009. The full Board of Supervisors will consider the lease later this month.
The county Mental Health Department provides outpatient mental health treatment and also operates an alcoholism and substance abuse treatment program. Those would be moved to the new site, and Friendship House — a day treatment program now located in Milton — may also be moved to the new site.
The department currently has its offices next to Saratoga Hospital, in two buildings the hospital owns. The hospital has notified the county that it must vacate the mental health clinic by next June, as the hospital considers expansion plans. The lease on the alcohol and substance abuse treatment building ends on Dec. 31, 2013.
The department, with about 55 employees and a budget of $10 million, has an average caseload of 1,700 to 2,000 people at any given time.
“We want it to be a comfortable, practical space,” said Buildings and Grounds Committee Chairman Richard Rowland, R-Greenfield.
The Topper building, owned by local businessman Frank Parillo, sits on a shabby section of South Broadway, between the empty Saratoga Diner and the former Tradewinds restaurant. Parillo bought the property for $2.25 million last June.
City officials have been studying ideas for improving that section of South Broadway, one of the main entrances to the city.
“It’s a property that has looked unsightly for some time,” said Supervisor Joanne Yepsen, D-Saratoga Springs.
She said it’s a good site for the Mental Health offices because a large percentage of the population that requires the department’s services lives in the city and the location is along a public transportation route.
The Buildings and Grounds Committee recommended leasing the Topper building over two other potential sites. County Mental Health Director Hans Lehr said he considered it the best of the three sites from an administrative perspective, and it can be ready to be occupied by the hospital’s eviction deadline.
The county will sign a five-year lease at a base annual rent of $28,151 per month, with additional options for another 10 years.
“This keeps it in the city, which is where most of our folks are,” Lehr said.
Rowland said the Topper building will be renovated between now and June to convert the auto dealership space into offices.
“The plan is to dress up the facade,” he said.