FORT EDWARD — Scattered in rooms of a dilapidated house are boxes of unopened Public Health supplies, ready for a major incident or epidemic.
But the boxes have long been lost, and county supervisors were surprised to find them during a tour Tuesday of old facilities slated for demolition.
They also found four old car seats, ready to be given to the poor — two of them still brand new, in their original boxes. But they were never distributed, and now they’ve expired.
There were lights for the jail — brand new, in boxes — and many Public Health records in stacked boxes. There was even a hospital bed in perfect condition.
But no one has a chance of finding a particular item if they needed it, said county administrator Chris DeBolt.
“Definitely not. Not even close,” he said.
Hebron Supervisor Brian Campbell noted that they had stumbled across things in an old barn, a house, and a multi-room construction trailer. Nothing seemed to be organized or even stored near other similar items.
He imagined people searching for air masks in a public health crisis.
“Oh, I think I saw it over there!” he imagined workers saying as they frantically searched multiple buildings.
For months, Buildings and Grounds workers have been trying to clear out the “garbage” from the buildings, and the rest of the stuff may be sold or donated.
Supervisors went on the tour to consider whether they want to demolish a barn and two trailers, replacing them with one large storage building. It would probably be a multimillion-dollar project, and at first supervisors took pains to comment on what good shape the buildings were in.
One trailer smelled of mold. It holds about half of the county’s voting machines, and paper can’t be stored there because of the moisture problem, DeBolt said.
But Campbell noted that the machines themselves were safe there.
Slowly, though, supervisors began to see the seriousness of the situation. Vines were growing inside one barn, stretching more than a foot along the entire back wall. They dangled just above shelves of stacked Public Health records. The roof also had a distinct slope downward in the middle.
In a trailer, they gingerly stepped into a back room — filled with filing cabinets of Head Start records — where the floor is sinking.
Then they walked through an old house, now the dumping ground for many odds and ends, and discovered on the top floor that a small part of the roof had collapsed.
DeBolt urged them to support demolition and getting rid of lots of the accumulated supplies.
“We definitely have a hoarder’s mentality,” he said. “We never throw anything out.”
The tour turned eerie at one point when supervisors peered into a chest-high stack of things and one of them said, “That kind of looks like a body.”
After a moment’s pause, they dug it out.
“It is a body! It’s a Public Health mannequin,” DeBolt said.
Supervisors asked about holding some sort of yard sale. Treasurer Al Nolette said the county has done on-site auctions in the past.
“You don’t make a lot of money, but it gets you cleared out quick,” he said.
Board members seemed to support that idea. But when it came to demolishing the vine-infested barn and the two trailers, they were less enthusiastic. They wondered if someone would buy the trailers. They also questioned whether they really needed a new building.
DeBolt wants one large metal building. The county has traditionally just acquired free buildings near its complex and used them, which he said has not necessarily saved the county money.
“We have a need to store all our voting machines, probably in one spot. We need a climate-controlled place for records,” he said.
When the county last needed storage, it took over two construction trailers used when the jail was built. Those have not aged well.
After discussion, the board authorized DeBolt to get cost estimates for a project that would demolish the trailers and barn and build a new structure.