By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — MALONE — A cluster of crumbling buildings on College Avenue may be demolished to create athletic fields for Malone Central School District.
The plan is part of an ongoing attempt to use State Education Department funding to build a new bus garage/transportation facility for the district’s fleet and then lease part of the site to the Town of Malone for a new highway garage.
A referendum could go before voters by the end of the year or in early 2014, and construction could start in 2015, school officials said.
But first, the parties involved need to find out who owns the targeted property, which once housed the former Northern New York Institution for Deaf-Mutes, built in 1887.
The facilities were later used by North Country Community College and Clarkson University.
Franklin County Treasurer’s Office records show the last known owner as Dale Kanzler, who paid $50,000 for the property in 2005 at auction, when the State Office of General Services sold off the seven buildings.
None of them have been used for the past seven years.
County legislators met in executive session Thursday with School District Superintendent Jerry Griffin, business administrator Timothy Whipple and attorney Matt McArdle to discuss possible land acquisition.
They came away saying the apparent owner had never signed a deed to formally take title to the property, therefore, he may not legally own it anymore.
About $50,000 in unpaid taxes are attached to the property, known as the Harison Complex, located at the corner of College Avenue and State Street.
The School District hopes to obtain ownership with the county’s help and demolish the existing bus garage and the older buildings so new athletic fields can be created.
“We bus a lot of kids back and forth to the airport and Rec Park,” Whipple said, referring to community ball fields at the Malone Dufort Airport and the Malone Recreation Park.
The district pays about $5,000 a year to use those sites.
He said the district wants to keep the students “playing near our own campus” and will create two fields.
“By constructing soccer and softball fields in the former bus garage and College Avenue sites, all Franklin Academy varsity-athletic teams would play their home contests at the actual high-school site,” Whipple said.
He said district sports programs have expanded in the last several years and that the school “is in constant conflict with community groups who also want to use the same facilities for youth soccer and baseball/softball programs.
Whipple said the bus-garage project would be 90 percent funded through state aid and paid off across 30 years.
The planned facility would have a 24-hour fueling station available to whichever partnering entity obtains a valid password from the district, which makes fuel priced under state contract.
“Other municipalities will have the ability to leverage those prices and save significantly for their taxpayers,” Whipple said.
ONCE IN A LIFETIME
The shared transportation space on Route 11 would include space for vehicle maintenance, a washing station, vehicle painting and access to welding equipment.
“We believe the acquisition and subsequent demolition and development of the College Avenue buildings is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Griffin said.
“These properties have become a nuisance. The thought of turning these properties into playing fields for (district) students and children of surrounding communities is exciting,” he said. “I believe this project is something that the entire community could take pride in.”
Email Denise A. Raymo:firstname.lastname@example.org