Rarely are projects that involve politics ever decided on unanimously.
When they are those decisions are often scrutinized afterward for great lengths of time. In Seneca Falls, the addition of a brand new municipal building is no different.
At the start of the project, which was initiated by the previous administration, the decision to build a new municipal building on Ovid Street was met with skepticism, frustration, and confusion. While the Town utilized the former St. Patrick’s School as office space, a court house, and meeting place – it was happening at the cost of rental.
As they say with renting anything: It’s always a better investment to build something, or own something outright.
After the initial fight to slow, or stop the project in 2015 failed, an election cycle moved through, seeing Seneca Falls Supervisor Greg Lazzaro win his seat with more than 80 percent of the vote. While running, he campaigned on the promise of selling property owned by Seneca Falls to compensate for the $2.5+ investment of a new municipal building.
Thus far, the Seneca Falls Town Board has not successfully sold off any property – but are now in the process of entertaining an offer, or at least would appear to be discussing one in executive session for 12 Fall Street.
If the Town of Seneca Falls had no other options, and building a new structure was the right tact, Clerk of the Works Frank Turo calls this a “100-year investment.”
Last week, Turo took me on a tour of the new facility, as it nears completion. The remaining work to be done inside is mainly technical and cosmetic work, which includes tasks like getting I.T. setup, and bringing in furniture. “It will take about eight weeks for furniture to arrive from the moment they order it,” Turo explained to me on the journey through the currently empty facility.
“The great thing about this now is that it won’t require the maintenance that an older structure would require,” Turo continued. A nod to the other buildings owned by Seneca Falls, which are working to be sold off. It comes down to investing in a product today that will last multiple generations and service Seneca Falls in a way that other options simply could not.
Those who have attended Seneca Falls Town Board meetings this summer have noticed the extreme warmth inside the former St. Patrick’s gymnasium, which is without air conditioning. As the room has filled up over the last few months with intense debate over the future of Seneca Meadows, it has simultaneously heated up – as hundreds have gathered to observe.
The new facility will give the Town the ability to have security that also was not possible at previous locations. The new site features a completely secured transport hallway for those being brought in for court from the outside, as well as holding cells, and state-of-the-art facilities across the board. Bulletproof glass and walls in areas surrounding the courtroom, which are an upgrade from the current amenities.
The foyer of the new building will also feature a metal detector, which will ensure that those entering the facility are checked for items that should not be brought into the municipal building, courtroom or police headquarters.
For many, the puzzling factor over the last several months has been the lack-of-discussion on the new site. According to Turo, they will be moved in by October 1, 2016. That information, though, has not been confirmed.
FLX Politics is a weekly feature by Josh Durso, which takes a critical look at policy in the Finger Lakes. He is the Lead News Editor at FingerLakes1.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.