March 11, 2010


Proposal revamps county office space

Plan to cost between $614,000 to $1.3 million, move departments among 3 county buildings

Staff Reporter

Maintenance Department Supervisor Brian Parker offered a sweeping plan Tuesday to relocate several Cortland County offices in an effort to resolve space shortages and inadequate layouts of several departments.
Parker presented to the Buildings and Grounds Committee a document outlining his plan, saying the renovation, which could cost between $614,000 to $1.3 million, would be paid off in five to six years with little affect on the county budget.
Parker estimates that by paying for the renovations with rent revenue from the county’s building at 37 Church St., the budget would be impacted less than 1 percent yearly.
Legislators did not discuss the idea, saying they need more time to review the proposal.
A special meeting of the Buildings and Grounds Committee might be called later in the month to discuss the plan.
The proposal presents two scenarios.
Each option involves moving programs and people into different spaces in the Cortland County Courthouse, a county-owned building at 37 Church Street, and the County Office Building through different steps over about two years.
Under the first scenario, space in the basement of the Courthouse, vacated by the Department of Motor Vehicles’ recent move to River Street, would be renovated and used for the District Attorney Office and grand jury room.
The Planning Department would move from its current location at 37 Church St. to the east wing of the Courthouse basement, where the Probation Department is currently located. The first floor of the Courthouse where the District Attorney Office is, would also be renovated for the Planning Department’s use.
The Probation Department would move to 37 Church Street.
Renovation costs for this scenario are estimated between $614,000 to $767,150.
In the second scenario, the vacated DMV space in the Courthouse basement would house the Probation Department.
The Planning Department would move to the west wing of the Courthouse basement.
The District Attorney Office would be consolidated on the first floor of the Courthouse. The grand jury room would still be moved to the basement in the renovated probation space and a new stairway would be built for the District Attorney Office to access the room.
Under this second scenario Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County would move from the first floor of the County Office Building to 37 Church St. The space vacated by Cornell Cooperative Extension in the County Office Building, would be renovated for the Mental Health Department to take over along with the vacated Board of Elections space that is adjacent to it.
The Mental Health offices in a rented 14,440-square-foot building on Clayton Avenue would be relocated in this plan. Parker said that space is not efficient and is not wheelchair accessible. Offices are on the first and second floor and Parker says more space is being utilized than is needed. The new space for Mental Health offices in the County Office Building would be about 6,100 square feet and more efficiently laid out, he said.
The second scenario would save the county at least $116,000 in yearly rental costs for the Clayton Avenue building, though Parker says that is based on 2003 rental figures since he did not have updated numbers. The cost has risen since then, he said, so the savings would be higher.
The renovation costs for the second scenario range from $1 million to $1.3 million.
Both scenarios call for the Horizon House Adult Day Treatment Center to be moved from the 2,263-square-foot space at 49 Grant Street, to TC3’s Extension Center at West Court Street, which is about 3,200 square feet. TC3 already plans to swap that property for a south Main Street property owned by the county.
Both scenarios move the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency-Business Development Corp., the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce and the Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, all located at 37 Church Street, to 49 Grant St.
Under Parker’s proposal, the rent paid to the county from occupants at 37 Church St., which would be the Probation Department or Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County, would offset all renovation costs over about five or six years. Parker based that estimate on the current rental revenue of $131,220.
Parker stressed the proposal is just an idea he came up with to save the county money as it faces space problems.
At the Feb. 25 Legislative session, the county rescinded its eminent domain proceedings on Elm Street properties, which would have acquired land for the county.
“I saw they couldn’t pay ... to take that property so I knew then that in order for something to be completed or done I have to show the impact and how it is going to be paid for and what the cost of it was going to be,” Parker said.
He said the plan is contingent upon two factors: current occupants of 37 Church St. agreeing to the move and the county’s land swap with Tompkins Cortland Community College being finalized. The land swap includes moving the Horizon House to TC3’s extension site on West Court Street.
Planning Department Director Dan Dineen declined to comment on Parker’s proposal since he had not been told of the proposal.
Dineen said the Planning Department has already moved many times: from the second floor of the County Office Building, to the basement of a building, to Lincoln Avenue before coming to 37 Church St.
Executive Director of the IDA/BDC Garry VanGorder also did not comment on the plan since he was not familiar with it.
Mental Health Director of Administrative Services Michael Kilmer did not return phone calls for comment.
Buildings and Grounds Committee Chairman Newell Willcox (R-Homer) said he wants to have the funding of the renovations explained to him.
Willcox stressed the ideas are all “possible scenarios.”
“I am almost blindsided by the solutions. I admire his efforts to move forward fast but I have got to have firmer ground on how we could possibly fund this,” Willcox said.


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