Rotterdam’s decision on whether to buy or lease a new public safety building could hinge on whether county officials choose to site a planned centralized dispatch system within the facility.
Two proposals presented to members of the Town Board this week involve renovating vacant buildings and both include space to house the county’s 4,500-square-foot dispatch center. But one proposal offers to lease the new facility to Rotterdam, while the other would allow the town to buy the property.
The Galesi Group is offering to renovate a wing of Building 50, a sprawling office space off Westcott Road that once housed the regional headquarters of the Department of Environmental Conservation. The renovation would include about 33,400 square feet for Rotterdam’s justice court and police department, which are now housed in a 25,000-square-foot former school building on Princetown Road.
The renovation could also include space for the dispatch center. Only a fraction of the three-wing, 80,000-square-foot building is occupied, meaning there’s additional space the town could use.
“We designed this for expansion space,” Galesi Chief Operating Officer David Buicko told board members Wednesday. “We still have room for Town Hall if you want.”
Buicko said the cost of the lease would depend on what type of renovation the town is interested in. He said the lease would be similar to one the county now has for its Department of Social Services building on Broadway.
The county began a 20-year, $16 million lease on that building in 2009, with the option to buy the building at the end. The average yearly cost of the lease was reported to be $16.99 per square foot.
The other proposal, from Highbridge Commercial Development, offers a renovation of the former Grand Union building on Hamburg Street. The project would produce a combined 40,669 square feet for the police, courts and dispatch center, including a 5,000-square-foot warehouse the department could use for evidence storage.
John Roth, a principal of the company, estimated the facility as designed would cost about $8.3 million. He said the advantage of owning the building is that the town could fix its costs.
“Why pay me a profit when you could own it and never have to pay out that profit,” he said.
Supervisor Harry Buffardi said the town could save as much as $260,000 annually if the county decides to site the dispatch center in Rotterdam. He said $100,000 would come from a lease with the county.
But the timeframe for the county to decide where to locate the center is running short. The centralized dispatch system must be operational by October for the county to use a $1 million state grant.
County officials put out a request for proposals for the project in January and are now in the process of choosing a site. County Legislator Tony Jasenski said a decision should come within a month.
“We’re looking at making a decision in April,” he said.
Rotterdam’s police and court building in the former Jefferson School has been a source of irritation for years. Police have complained the building is inadequate for their operations, while the town’s bustling justice court is routinely filled beyond capacity.
The structure’s limited size has cramped many of the police department’s offices, and its design as a school has made it difficult for them to move prisoners from the small jail cell to the court. The building also hasn’t undergone any extensive renovation in years and, like many older structures, has developed problems that become costly to repair.
Town officials indicated Wednesday that they won’t support a public safety facility plan that boosts taxes beyond the state-imposed 2 percent cap. Buffardi suggested bargaining with both to get the most competitive deal.
“Come up with a number that doesn’t break the bank,” he advised.