AREA NEWSThe Putnam Examiner

Leasing Vacant Property, Borrowing Money on County Agenda

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Vincent Tamanga
Putnam County Legislator Vincent Tamanga

After majority of the Putnam County Legislature nixed a plan put forward by County Executive MaryEllen Odell to sell off the county-owned, large-unoccupied building at 34 Gleneida Avenue, the legislature’s physical services committee discussed what the future of the building might be at a meeting last week, at which the county executive and the full county legislature were present.

A large-scale energy efficiency study of all county facilities by a state agency concluded that $10,000 should be spent on energy upgrades that would save the county $5,000 on utilities for 34 Gleneida, meaning the money spent on upgrades would be recouped in just two years.

Legislator Vincent Tamagna, who was in favor of the executive’s plan to sell the building said more than just a few fixes would be needed, including making the building compliant with federal handicap-accessible requirements.

“It’s more than changing out some windows…for the taxpayers of Putnam County… if it’s going to sit there with no one occupying it…it’s doesn’t make any sense,” Legislator Tamagna said, noting that when the county was considering obtaining space at the now-dormant proposed Butterfield development in Cold Spring that the legislature did a square foot by square foot analysis of how the space would be utilized. “If we are going to keep it…for what purpose?”

Tamagna was the only legislator to question retaining ownership of the building and many of the other legislators said they were in favor or leasing out the front or all of the building to a private tenant.

Legislator Richard Othmer said that additional renovations should be done to make the outside of the building more aesthetically-pleasing.

“We need to get ahead of the wagon and build something that is going to look like little downtownAmerica,” Legislator Othmer said, in an effort to attract tenants.

Some of the legislators said they were in favor of moving quickly, so that the building didn’t remain vacant.

“I think you will be surprised. I think people will be very interested in it,” Legislator Dini LoBue said of potential tenants.

At the same meeting Putnam County Commissioner of Highways and Facilities Fred Pena told legislators that $1 million would need to be borrowed in order to remove 22 underground oil storage tanks [USTs].

Pena, who was appointed earlier this year, said that in 2008 the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation found tremendous deficiencies in the physical integrity of the county’s USTs.

At that time, out of the county’s 34 USTs, 22 of them were identified for removal and the other 12 were determined safe enough to remain the ground for some time, but that nothing was ever done to begin work on the USTs found to be in poor condition.

CountyLegislatorDanBirminghamrequested that a complete study be undertaken before there was an approval to borrow such a large sum of money.

Commissioner Pena said the study was underway at present and that time was of the essence to get the 22 compromised tanks out of the ground.

“We had a failure at the transit facility,” Pena said of one of the USTs in question. “You realize you have these ticking issues in the ground?”

The $1 million in borrowing would only cover construction costs, but not the additional expense of possible clean-up costs.

“If we have leaking tanks underground, we don’t know how far that goes,” Pena said. “What is not in this number is if you have seepage with any of these tanks….can’t be quantified until you get in there.”

Legislator Richard Othmer said that fines fromNew YorkStatewould be much greater than the amount to remove the tanks if they did not move quickly.

Removal of the old oil tanks comes at a time when the county is converting from oil to gas-fueled boilers at county-owned facilities.

In addition to the $1 million for the removal of USTs, the county legislature also is expected to vote on whether or not to borrow $75,000 to replace the boilers at the Donald B. Smith campus and whether or not to borrow an estimated $1.5 million for the repaving and fixing of some portions of county-owned roadways.


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