November 27, 2021

Homer village office move advances

Catherine Wilde/contributing photographer

Homer Town Clerk Anita Jebbett gestures on Friday to what will be renovated space in a new meeting room in the Homer Town Hall at 31 N. Main St.

The Village Board will hold its first meeting in Town Hall since 2010 on Wednesday and village offices may return to the building within a month, Town Supervisor Fred Forbes said Friday.

The Syracuse-based architect Crawford & Stearns is still drafting the Town Hall renovation plans to accommodate the shared space, Forbes said.

“We’re still in the stage of meeting with the architect and drawing up the official plans so we have not even gone out to bid, nor do we have a clue what the price will be at this point,” Forbes said.

But Forbes says village offices can temporarily be relocated to existing space in Town Hall while the final plans are being drawn up. Meanwhile, conversations will begin between village and town board members to hash out details of this imminent move, he said.

Village Board trustees Ed Finkbeiner and Kevin Slack and Town Board member Barry Warren and Supervisor Forbes are the designated officials who will begin meeting on the topic. Town Clerk Anita Jebbett and Village Clerk Kalee Updyke will also be part of the discussions.

No meetings have been scheduled yet.

The assessor for the town and village of Homer as well as the city and Virgil, Brian Fitts, will also be consulted since his office space is going to be relocated, Jebbett said on a tour of the building Friday.

The ultimate plan is to relocate the assessor’s office, which sits to the left of the entrance to the building, to a former stage area in the back of the building, which is currently used for storage.

The curved front of the stage, now hidden behind a wall, would be a feature incorporated into the building plan, perhaps visible from the renovated board room. Planners are also looking for ways to make the historic graffiti on the walls of the stage area exposed to public view, a nod to the historic nature of the building, constructed in 1908, Jebbett said.

A central hallway would also be created, an important feature in a building that currently lacks that, said Jebbett, who often has people wandering into her office from the back, having come from shared space between the assessor’s office next door.

The bathrooms behind the clerk’s office will also be redone and the village mayor will share space with the town historian in the office immediately to the left of the building’s entrance, said Forbes.

To temporarily accommodate the village offices until they can be put in the assessor’s office, Forbes and code enforcement officials would move from their current office that lies to the right of the main entrance, across the hall to an empty office behind the assessor’s office.

“Thus creating a place for the clerks and mayor on the other side,” he said.

Then once stage renovations are done, the assessor would move back to that area and then the assessor’s office would be renovated to house village offices once more, as that space did before the village moved out in 2010.

Jebbett said the changes will make for space that is more conducive to work flow and friendlier to visitors.

“Otherwise you walk through offices to get places,” she said. “To get to the board room you have to walk through my office.”

Jebbett thinks the plans are a good mix of various people’s ideas.

“And we have to make do with what space we have, it isn’t huge and we need to have three offices while before there were two, the town and village,” she said.

Forbes does not expect any of the renovations to start until the winter.

The move back to Town Hall has been contentious and became a political talking point, with newly elected village Mayor Hal McCabe and trustees Finkbeiner, Slack and Patrick Clune favoring the move after past Mayor Genevieve Suits and other officials wanted to remain separate.

McCabe said Friday he is excited one of his top priorities is coming to fruition.

“I like to think I got elected on my good looks but I realize it’s probably because the majority of people who voted for me wanted to move the offices back to Town Hall,” said McCabe.

He said village officials will be visiting the Town Hall and taking measurements to judge how to best accommodate the offices.

“We need to go and assess the space that would be available to us in the interim basis and make sure it’s sufficient,” McCabe said. “While it’s critical to get over there as quickly as possible, we don’t want to put our staff in working conditions that are difficult or unpleasant just for the sake of being there.”

The village moved out of the Town Hall in 2010, citing concerns about air quality, and also rejected a plan to move back into Town Hall in 2015. But this year, plans have progressed under McCabe.

Office and storage space became a big concern for the village, as the village’s current offices at 53 S. Main St. are 900 square feet. At least 1,100 square feet of space is available to the village for office space in Town Hall, not including the empty stage area.

The village will pay the town $600 a month for the space, said Forbes, but that amount will be lowered until such time as all the offices can move to the Town Hall.