Prior to a discussion that it would cost $145,500 more than previously budgeted to make renovations to the first floor of the Putnam County Office Building, County Clerk Dennis Sant asked to address the county legislature’s Physical Services Committee at their meeting on June 19.
“I had a judge come into my office and say ‘Mr. Clerk, your office is deplorable’,” Sant, whose office in on the first floor, told the committee.
Sant said that a study conducted six years ago during the Bondi administration recommended that the expansion and renovation of the clerk’s office be a priority.
After that, the county moved part of the county clerk’s office to 34 Gleneida Avenue, splitting it into two.
Sant said he was told several years ago that as soon as the county district attorney’s office was renovated, that his would be next, but that did not happen. Renovations were done on the county legislature’s office, the finance office and then the county executive’s office, but not at the clerk’s office.
“And here I sit with a mess on the first floor,” Sant said. “The separation of my office was never my idea.”
Sant said that title searches were sitting on the floor. And members of the public also had to sit on the floor while doing records searches.
He also said that not finally uniting and expanding his office was costing the county money in a number of ways.
“The work we do is redundant and inefficient,” he said.
In addition, Sant said that the county had entered into a new contract to update computers and other out-dated equipment in the county clerk’s office, but that the vendor couldn’t deliver the new computers, terminals and scanners because there is nowhere to put them.
“We are looking at a situation now that we are in a contract, we are paying money, and I haven’t seen one new piece of equipment,” he said.
In comparison to the inefficiencies due to the division of the department, which the county this year has been working to address, Sant said that the county clerk’s office generated more revenue than the other county departments combined.
“You put motor vehicle, the courts, the registrar [together] and we bring in more revenue and we get the least amount of attention,” Sant said.
Finally, Sant said the overcrowded conditions he and his staff are working in meant that the county has been out of compliance since Sept. 1 of last year with a contract signed with towns and villages to maintain vital records.
“Please put my office back together. Let’s do it as soon as possible,” Sant said. “I’m tired of my priority ending up in the basement every single time.”
Legislators in attendance, as well as Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell who was at the meeting, expressed support and thanked Sant for his patience.
Legislator Richard Othmer pointed out that the county office building was constructed in 1911, with two additions being added in 1925 and in 1936, but since then no major changes have been made to the building.
The resolution to approve the total $160,000 to do renovations and install and HVAC system is expected to move on for approval by the full legislature at its July meeting.