Press-Republican

January 5, 2014

Opposing plans for Reserve Center in Malone

Law enforcement, advocates for the homeless seek Malone building

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — The U.S. Army Reserve Center on Finney Boulevard has cleared federal legal hoops and is being offered first to homeless advocates, then law-enforcement officials.

Pastor Joe Selenski, director of Barnabas House, the only homeless shelter in Franklin County, said he would be thrilled to see the property used for homeless services through a consortium of social-welfare agencies to help struggling individuals and families.

Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne said that, if he gets the building, he would campaign to have the designation of Northern Border Intelligence Center for the site, with the aim to bring federal, state, county and local law-enforcement efforts together to better fight crime.

TWO BUILDINGS, LAND

The U.S. General Services Administration notified both men that it is prepared to dispose of the building and that a letter of intent expressing interest in its reuse is needed within 60 days.

The Lockwood Army Reserve Center was built in 1961 and includes a 24,325-square-foot training building, a 3,234-square- foot maintenance building and 4.28 acres of land.

The Village of Malone had expressed interest in moving its offices to the site, and possibly the Department of Public Works and Village Police Department, but nothing has a come of that idea.

PRIORITY USES

Law-enforcement interests are seen as secondary under a federal law known as the McKinney Homelessness Assistance Act.

Use of a surplus government building goes to public or non-profit agencies that provide services and programs for a public benefit, in this priority: homeless services, corrections, law enforcement, drug rehabilitation, emergency-management response and housing.

“This could be an opportunity to handle the county’s homeless needs, transition-housing needs and supportive assistance,” Selenski said. “This could save the county a lot of money.

“I can’t do it alone,” the pastor said. “It’s too big a project. Barnabas House is just a drop in the bucket, but if the county were to come up with something, we’d be glad to offer any assistance we can to get it off the ground.”

Selenski said he hopes to meet with Social Services Commissioner Lesley Lyon this week to discuss possibilities.

ASSESSING THE SITE

Champagne said the sheer size of the reserve building and property may make it far too big for homeless-related services to be housed there.

He plans to contact an architect and representatives from a variety of local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies to conduct a walk-through.

The General Services Administration has maintained the building, so it may not have deteriorated much since it was last used in 2008.

INTELLIGENCE CENTER

The DA said he wants the law-enforcement community to combine its efforts along the northern border by bringing together the county’s Narcotics and Border Task Force and personnel from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. Division of Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Border Patrol, National Guard, State Police and representatives from municipal police departments in Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Malone.

That plan has had the blessing of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Rep. Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) for years, as it would create the Northern Border Intelligence Center.

“The northern border is the only one without an intelligence center,” Champagne said, adding that many arrests and prosecutions in New York City are connected to drug trafficking here.

He said that could be stemmed if the state put a concentrated investigatory unit in place to share information with other agencies, as law enforcement in other regions can do.

“Why is the North Country left out?” he said. “This is an opportunity to say ‘the governor is making great strides on economic development and bringing jobs to the North Country. Now, we need to do something for law enforcement that other regions of the state have.

“The Northern Border Intelligence Center would be the best-case scenario because it will bring eight to 10 high-paying jobs to the North Country, and we would be caught up with the rest of the state,” the DA said.

“We would be able to compare and share intelligence with the rest of the state. The key will be to get the State Department of Criminal Justice Services and the Governor’s Office on board and see what happens.”

OTHER USES

If a reuse plan submitted by either party is rejected, the next priority for ownership goes to municipalities, but they must pay fair-market value for the property.

If there are still no takers, the property goes to the highest bidder at public auction.

Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com