Pared down Town Hall renovations approved

Months of debate reveals discontent with state of facilities

Interior renovations to Bethlehem Town Hall will at long last be going forward after first being brought up over a year ago.

About $240,000 of work was approved in a split vote taken at Wednesday, April 27's Town Board meeting. The project will mainly involve shuffling some town staff to other areas in the building and modifying existing offices to give the staff in Human Resources and the Comptroller's Office more room. Some staffers are now sharing workspaces.

Included in that figure were renovations to the holding cells in the police department, a measure that passed unanimously. The money will come out of reserves.

The project has been modified greatly since it was first introduced, including the extraction of office equipment. The town will try to acquire some furnishings from the state Office of General Services.

There was some lamentation on Wednesday over the amount of money being put into Town Hall this year. Along with a repair of the courthouse roof and the parapet wall lining the roof (a portion of which fell and crushed several cars earlier this year) more than $850,000 will go into the building.

That's my whole problem with this building. We keep sinking money into it year after year, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it still doesn't do what we need it to, said Councilman Mark Jordan, who along with Councilwoman Joann Dawson voted against a portion of the renovations.

Town officials have long been aware of this dilemma. A 2006 report concluded the town would do well to build an entirely new Town Hall, or at least spin off the police department and courts into another building. Even that would be expensive, though.

"The construction costs for the building was $11 million, and that doesn't even include land space," Supervisor Sam Messina said. "I just don't know in this day and age how we can come up with the money."

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