December 2, 2021

New village offices pushed in Homer

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Homer officials are considering the 3,712-square-foot former railroad freighthouse at 44 James St., shown above Tuesday, for new village offices.

HOMER — The Village Board voted down a motion by Trustee Edward Finkbeiner, during its monthly meeting Tuesday night, to move back into Town Hall and no longer explore renovating a former railroad freighthouse; the same day it received a state grant to do the latter.

State Sen. James Seward (R-Milford) was in Homer Tuesday morning at the former Lackawanna Railroad freighthouse, at 44 James St. — a site the village is considering renovating as a possible option for its new offices. Seward announced the village is receiving a $150,000 state grant to help purchase the building, or another suitable building.

The village building committee is considering two options for the new location of the village office: move back into Town Hall, after having moved out six years ago, or purchase and renovate the 3,712-square-foot freighthouse.

Shortly after Trustee Gene Smith announced the acceptance of the grant at the meeting, Finkbeiner stated his opinion and brought forth the motion, which he and Trustee Kevin Slack supported.

Mayor Genevieve Suits and Trustees Patrick Clune and Smith voted against the motion.

“I feel our position is an emotional rent versus buy argument and is completely biased,” Finkbeiner said in support of his motion. “The building committee and previous trustees had six plus years to figure out where the village offices should reside. A rational review of the evidence to date supports a move back with the Town Hall.”

Clune said he voted against Finkbeiner’s motion because it is important to hear the building committee’s final report before making a definitive vote.

Finkbeiner faulted how long it has taken the building committee to provide information to the Village Board, but Suits said the committee was gathering information, a large portion of which was whether the village would receive the state grant.

Finkbeiner said during the meeting he believed the grant could be used to renovate part of Town Hall, however Suits shut his theory down immediately, stating the money cannot be used in that way.

The village’s application for the grant was specifically for the renovation and acquisition of the freighthouse. However if the village concludes it wants to put the money toward buying another building, or renovating space in Town Hall, the village would have to go back to Seward requesting the new use for the funds and the $150,000 “could be redirected,” Jeff Bishop, communications director for Seward’s office, said this morning. The new use would have to be approved by Seward and the state, he said.

Smith said at the next committee meeting at 6 p.m. on Dec. 19 in the village office, members will form a presentation to deliver at the next Village Board meeting in January, outlining what the village should do.

The issue for the village is the current village offices at 53 S. Main St., at 900 square feet, are too small.

On Nov. 28, the Homer Town Board offered to let the village use about 1,100 square feet of space in the Town Hall — although most of it is filled by an assessor’s office — for $600 a month for five years. The town would also cover up to $15,000 in renovation costs.

The village moved out of the Town Hall in 2010, citing problems with air quality and also rejected a plan to move back into Town Hall last year.

Renovating the freighthouse would cost about $272,000, the exact amount of money the village has set aside for such a project. And the $150,000 state grant, the exact amount the village applied for, would allow the village to purchase the building.