By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — MALONE — Town-owned land on Lower Park Street may be used to house a one-stop facility for town highway, village public works and school transportation operations.
Town Supervisor Howard Maneely surprised members of the Malone Shared Services Committee by announcing from the audience Tuesday night he will meet next Tuesday with Malone Central School District Business Administrator Timothy Whipple and others about the idea.
Preliminary discussions revealed they would like to share a garage, Maneely said.
The school could qualify for 90 percent state-aid reimbursement, which would pay for a majority of the project, leaving the town and village to each kick in 5 percent of the cost, he said.
It was suggested that if an architectural design and estimated costs can be drawn up quickly, a plan could go before voters as soon as school-budget votes in May.
A $1 million shared town-village complex at the existing Highway Department site on Route 11 was recommended as part of the village-dissolution study. Dissolution was rejected by voters by a 2-to-1 margin earlier this month.
But that idea has now broadened to include the School District, which failed in its attempt in 2008 to get voter approval to build a $12.5 million transportation facility on 110 acres it planned to buy for $525,000 at the corner of Route 11 and Houndsville Road.
That site was to have 39 bays to hold the district’s fleet and allow for maintenance, a washing station and spare-parts storage. It would have replaced the existing bus garage at Franklin Academy High School, which was built in 1965.
The Houndsville Road site has since been added to the Franklin County Agricultural District, meaning it can be used only for agricultural purposes.
“That land is gone,” said Mayor Todd LePine.
But the town owns 58 acres on Lower Park Street behind the County Garage that could be developed for the facility.
“What better opportunity to get the town garage off Route 11?” Maneely said.
Those present acknowledged that Lower Park Street residents might not appreciate the increase in heavy-truck traffic in their neighborhood, but the site would give snowplows and school buses easier access to Route 30. And some village services, including water, are already established in that area.
“We can get the school on board, suck it dry and pay 5 percent each,” said Town Council member Paul Walbridge, who was running the shared-services meeting.
UNDER ONE ROOF
Different attendees said a shared facility would bring lower heating costs compared to those now at the cavernous DPW garage and would also remove the facility from its proximity to the Salmon River off College Avenue, which environmental advocates have been pushing for years.
Time, money and manpower could also be saved with personnel under one roof and by not having to send municipal vehicles to the bus garage off Husky Lane when they need to be hoisted for tire changes and undercarriage maintenance.
It was also pointed out that if the town’s operation is moved from its site in front of the Malone Dufort Airport on Route 11, the land it sits on — across the highway from Ward Lumber and Wal-Mart — would become a valuable asset that could be sold for business development.
“I think this is huge,” said Maneely.
Email Denise A. Raymo: draymo@Pressrepublican.com