Lewis board debates new county building

Long-time Lewis County District 10 Legislator Jerry King, right, explains to his fellow legislators why he supports building a new building following the plans created about six years ago for the purpose at the existing Department of Social Services site in the board’s monthly meeting on Sept. 9. Julie Abbass/Watertown Daily Times

LOWVILLE — After a two-month stall, the Lewis County Board of Legislators set a special board meeting to discuss and perhaps make a decision about the location for a new county building.

Discussion among the legislators at their September board meeting Tuesday night once again centered around the pros and cons of constructing a new building that will house the Department of Social Services, Office of the Aging, Community Services, the Work Place, the Youth Bureau, the Board of Elections and the Department of Motor Vehicles, versus repairing the existing 30-year-old DSS building on Outer Stowe Street.

The current cost estimate is $12.5 million for the new 2,000-square-foot-plus building designed over six years ago when replacement of the Stowe Street building was first discussed.

Repairs to the existing building are estimated to run in the $6.5 million range, however some departments, like Elections and Moving Vehicles, are located in separate rented space in the village.

Proponents of the new building noted that it would save the money spent on rents for those departments and noted that even if the money is spent on fixing the “old building,” it is still an old building.

“We’ve got the information and now we’ve got to do something with it,” said District 10 Legislator Gerald King after the meeting. “A new building fixes a lot of our problems.”

A $50,000 study was done over the summer to consider other locations for the project as some legislators are concerned that the old plan being resuscitated may not fit the current needs of the county.

In the workshop, the legislators narrowed a dozen proposed locations down to four, including South State Street, Campbell Street, Number Four Road and the existing Stowe Street property, although some legislators prefer to revisit the master list to make sure these were the best choices.

“My reluctance is that I don’t want to rush into whatever we do,” said District 8 Legislator and Chairman of the Board Lawrence Dolhof, “Have we really done our due diligence?”

Not all of the legislators are convinced, however, that a new building is the best move.

“With me, what it all boils down to is what it costs the taxpayers,” District 2 Legislator Randy LaChausse said. “I’ve already said no, I’m not doing it if it will mean going over the tax cap. We don’t know how much state mandates and other programs will cost us next year.”

The special board meeting to discuss the capital project will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday in the legislative board room in the county court building on State Street.

Public attendance is welcome.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(1) comment


$12.5 million for 2000 sq ft? What is it going to be built out of, gold? The average cost for office space in NYC is $170 per sq ft, and Lewis county wants to spend $6250 per sq ft? That’s not even including the cost overruns of another $5 million like the $2 million the JCC extension overran? Which Our so called leaders didn’t even dispute. They just say, put it on the taxpayers tab. I can’t wait to get out of this hole when I retire in less then a year. Politicians just love to spend other people’s money on stupid things!

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