WHITEHALL -- After more than six years in temporary quarters, the town of Whitehall will finally move its offices to a permanent home across the street.
“The town office will be closed Thursday and Friday, and then Oct. 15 we’re open for business,” George Armstrong, the town supervisor said of the move to newly renovated offices in the former Skenesborough fire station. “Physically, it’s a pretty impressive-looking place. We are really excited about it.”
The town offices are being moved from the New York State Canal Corp. visitors center, where the town moved after having to sell the old town hall on Main Street because of asbestos issues. At the time, under Supervisor Vernon Scribner, the town started looking for a new site but could not find one even after being told to leave the building by the Canal Corp.
Armstrong said the town has spent almost $40,000 to renovate the building, one quarter of that on a handicapped-accessible bathroom.
“We could use the building for offices without that bathroom, but we were not allowed to have meetings in it unless we had it,” Armstrong said, noting the town has also put in a wall, cleaned the building and put in new heating/cooling units.
The town had hoped to make the move two or three months ago, Armstrong said, but had to work with the county to meet a number of regulations.
Initially, the building will be home to the town clerk, tax assessor, supervisor, budget officer and planning board. Armstrong said the town and village courts, along with the police department, will be in the building. The courts are upstairs in the village offices and are not handicapped accessible. The police department is in the village highway office on Montcalm Avenue. Officers can be forced to drive out of their way if a train is stuck on the tracks, as happened last year.
Mayor Peter Telisky has indicated in the past he has interest in moving the village offices to the firehouse building as well. Armstrong said the village is waiting to hear back from the state on a grant to help pay for the move.
“I cannot imagine anyone is doing any more consolidating than we are. Village and town officials have had informal discussion about a merger, but Armstrong said the focus right now is on the office move.
Armstrong said there is room in the new site for the village offices.
“We would share the meeting room,” he said. “That would be fine, because we meet on different nights.”
When he became supervisor in January, Armstrong said his first priority was to get the move done. The late Richard “Geezer” Gordon, who was supervisor before Armstrong, had said the same in 2010. The change proved to be more difficult than expected. In fact, the town looked at other sites, including the Whitehall Armory and the former Garden Time building on Route 4 before returning to its initial plan to renovate the firehouse.