Go Big Or Stay Small: The Future Of Schroon’s Town Hall Expansion

In what is expected to be a packed council meeting next month,  citizens will get a chance to have their say on a new expanded Town Hall Building.

Moments after the discussion at the September 14 meeting, council members and Town Supervisor Mike Marnell will vote on whether to move forward on the project. The current plan features expanded offices for town employees, a more secure court and chambers for the Town Judge and the prized jewel: a larger library.

Marnell, the Town Supervisor for the last four years, is not shy about where he stands on the issue. “I have been wanting to change our current situation for 13 years,” Marnell told Schroon Laker today.

“The building we have now was perfect in 1978. But we have outgrown it; it’s as simple as that.”

Marnell lists various reasons why the town needs the bigger space, among them safety issues with the current court room and judge’s chamber set up.

“Right now we have defendants meeting with their attorneys in the furnace room, there’s just one hallway, and our Town Judge is exposed. He has to use the same bathroom as defendants. There’s a window in the court area, again making it unsafe for the judge. It is not an acceptable situation on many levels.

“Imagine in the future, when we have a nice hotel here in town, with someone paying $250 a night and they have to get a fishing license from the Town Hall. Do we want those folks walking by a guy in an orange jump suit waiting for his hearing? That’s not the image we want to project”.

Besides new office space for town employees, a large part of the expansion will be used for the library, which Marnell says has become a destination for residents, second home owners and vacationers. It’s also a hub for folks to gather to experience an ever expanding list of special events.

“The library is way too small and cramped. I was in there recently and you could barely move.  All the computers were used, the kids section was tight. They have great programs and it’s become vital to our community.”

Based on current architectural plans, Marnell says the budget is currently around $900,000. He says with potential grant money, he hopes the amount the town will  have to borrow would be around $400,000.

Where would the grant money come from?  "Joseph Provoncha, the president of the Schroon Library board of Trustees is confident the library could secure $300,000 in grant money. We think State Senator Betty Little could help us secure other money and there’s a grant available from the New York State Justice Court system."

There would be further cost savings under the construction plan envisioned by Marnell.

“The Town would act as the General Contractor for the job. There are areas of expertise we have, like excavation and electrical, that we could supply without going to a sub-contractor, who would mark up the job. With a budget close to a $1 million for this project there’s a lot of room for mark-ups. Of course we’ll be using some sub-contractors, but we will keep a close eye on the budget”.

Marnell says the Town will borrow the money required to complete the job through issuing municipal bonds. He says there will be “minimal impact to tax payers.”

“We have borrowed far greater amounts for capital projects. In 2006 we borrowed $5 million for a complete overhaul of the Town’s sewage and water systems”. Those improvements were financed through issuing bonds, said Marnell.

“We spend $200,000 on a new truck with a life span of ten years. People should not be afraid of financing $400,000.”

Marnell is confident he will have enough votes from council members Roger Friedman, Meg Wood, Clara Phibbs and Donald Sage,  to see the project come to fruition.

“I’ve only heard good things from people. There’s a lot of support for this.

What do you think of the project? Let us know in comments.