Press-Republican

March 9, 2014

Two entities eye Army Reserve Center

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — Two local entities have declared interest in owning the former U.S. Army Reserve Center in Malone that was deemed surplus government property in 2011.

Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne and Barnabas House Homeless Shelter and Services Director the Rev. Joe Selenski have each filed letters of intent to seek ownership and then reuse the Finney Boulevard site.

Federal guidelines give first priority to homeless services.

Next consideration goes to law-enforcement purposes.

Champagne has campaigned for nearly three years to obtain the property as the headquarters for a multi-agency task force of local, state and federal agents and officers to battle crime along the Canadian border.

He says the site could also help convince Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the U.S. Department of Justice Services to award Malone a state/federal Crime Analysis Center.

That facility could encompass focused law-enforcement strategies for Franklin, Clinton and Essex counties, Champagne said, as well as six other northern counties with international-border boundaries.

‘UNDER ONE ROOF’

Selenski, pastor of Lifeway Community Church and director of the single-occupancy site Hope House, both in North Bangor, has been involved with solving homelessness issues in Franklin County for more than a decade.

He partners with other public and private agencies to help struggling individuals and families get back on their feet.

Having the Reserve Center could bring many of these scattered services and job-training opportunities under one roof, he said.

That could include employment and mental-health counseling, short-term efficiency housing, emergency housing for fire victims and more.

Selenski said he will be looking to form a coalition with partner agencies to assess whether the Reserve Center property would meet the proposed needs of the homeless and disadvantaged or whether it would be too expensive to operate and maintain.

He said the coalition has until May 27 to complete and file its application, and the state will make a decision on ownership within 25 days after that.

‘JUST NOTIFIED IN JANUARY’

He spoke with Champagne about their shared interest in the property and said the DA advised him to assess whether homeless services could be sustained financially and if all of the buildings and space on the property could be used.

“He feels that he put two or three years of very hard work into getting this (site), and it appears now that somebody is coming in to take over,” Selenski said. “But we just got notified in January” that the property was available.

“If we find it’s too costly to do renovations,” the coalition would step away to give the law-enforcement hub a home, he said.

“We both just want the taxpayers to get the best deal,” he said of himself and the DA.

The Lockwood Army Reserve Center, built in 1961, features a 24,000-square-foot training building and a 3,200-square-foot maintenance facility, along with a full commercial kitchen and lots of parking.

It is situated on about 4 acres of land and has been unoccupied since 2008.

Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com