Press-Republican

March 29, 2013

Plans made for Malone Reserve Center

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — The Malone Village Board wants the former U.S. Army Reserve Center on Finney Boulevard to consolidate its offices and departments onto one site.

But Franklin County is expected to gain title to the building in June and turn it over to District Attorney Derek Champagne as a possible headquarters for multiple law-enforcement agencies.

The DA has been negotiating for the property for more than two years to house a proposed Northern Border Intelligence Center, which has the blessing of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Congressmen Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) and the County Legislature.

Champagne said that while the village may want the site, “it’s not necessarily viable” that it could happen.

He is “willing to discuss sharing space with the village,” but the DA wants use of a majority of the Finney Boulevard site for law-enforcement purposes.

MORE, BETTER SPACE

Mayor Todd LePine said the Village Board wants to move the Village Offices, Police Department and Department of Public Works to the former reserve center to consolidate services.

It is what taxpayers wanted to see after soundly rejecting a November referendum to dissolve the village.

LePine said the site would provide plenty of room for all facets of village government and that a move would save taxpayers rent.

The Police Station could be sold for added savings.

Village Trustee Hugh Hill said the DPW garage “is toxic to property values” and a source of environmental issues for the Salmon River.

The Reserve Center’s fenced-in parking area could easily hold the DPW snowplows and other heavy equipment, as well as the fleet for the police force, he said.

VACANT SINCE 2008

The U.S. General Services Administration is in charge of disbursal of the property, known as the Lockwood Army Reserve Center.

It was built in 1961 and has a 24,325-square-foot training building and a 3,234-square-foot maintenance building situated on 4.28 acres.

The facility has been unoccupied since 2008, but a caretaker oversees it.

In July 2011, Schumer and Owens urged U.S. Secretary of the Army and former North Country Congressman John McHugh to get the property for Franklin County, but he told them it’s up to the General Services Administration to award it.

SURPLUS PROCEDURE

That agency decides what it holds in excess property each year, then hires an appraiser to set fair-market value. A notice is sent telling other federal agencies that it is available, and if they want it, they have 30 days to make a formal request for ownership.

If no federal agency wants it, it is declared surplus and made available to state and local governments and nonprofit organizations.

The property can be obtained for free as long as it is used for a public benefit, such as homeless services, corrections, law enforcement, drug rehabilitation, emergency-management response and housing.

Homeless services get priority over other public-benefit uses, according to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. But if no one wants it for that purpose, it is advertised as available and awarded after a review of applicants.

The process has taken so long because the General Services Administration needed an updated report on the property’s environmental condition, asbestos survey and radiological survey.

Champagne received a letter in February from Owens’s office, saying the property could be conveyed to the county by June.

BORDER CRIME

The proposed intelligence center would house the Franklin County 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 officers from municipal police departments in Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake and Malone.

The northern border is being exploited by drug smugglers and others, and officials say creating an intelligence center upstate would improve the sharing of information and coordination of the many agencies that protect the international border with Canada.

Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com