ELIZABETHTOWN — Extensive and probably expensive repairs are needed to a portion of the Essex County Government Center that houses the Public Defender's Office.
But County Manager Daniel Palmer said he will have a plan to present to the Board of Supervisors soon to address that and other space needs that can no longer wait.
Supervisor Robert Politi (R-North Elba) visited the Public Defender's Office before Monday's Department of Public Works Committee meeting.
"I was just in there, and that section of the building — yikes," he said.
Palmer said the overall building, which used to house the County Jail, has a leaky roof and "is pretty ragged. But it's on my horizon.
"There are some alternatives we can look at," he said, adding that he will meet with County Department of Public Works Director Chris Garrow and Deputy Director Jim Dougan to go over the most pressing needs.
That might include building an addition to the existing DPW structure and moving a few mission-related departments from the Government Center over there, such as the Planning Office and Community Development staff.
"There is a natural relationship there between the engineers and planners," Palmer said, and the move would free up space for other offices or contract agencies to use.
Supervisors intend to purchase the former Jehovah Witness property in the Town of Lewis to use as office space.
That option surfaced in the past few months as the county made plans to renovate the County Fairgrounds buildings in the Town of Westport.
Cornell Cooperative Extension and the county's Soil and Water Conservation District have office space at one of the fairgrounds buildings, so they can't stay while phased-in repairs take place over the next three years.
Palmer said the Lewis building became available, and he urged the board to buy it even though supervisors have not decided which offices will move into the former place of worship.
Cooperative Extension has asked the county for space, but some supervisors think that agency should find and pay for its own office since it merely contracts services with the county and is not a county department.
Others believe that if Cooperative Extension and Soil and Water go into the new site, they won't want to leave even after the fairgrounds repairs are completed.
So it will be up to the 18-member Board of Supervisors to reach an agreement on occupancy and repairs.
But first, Palmer will gather information on the needs and map out some possible solutions for the board to consider.
Politi said the Public Defender's Office needs attention because it is in the main county-office complex and seen by the public and visitors.
Palmer said supervisors have to decide if they want to spend the money to fix the leaky roof or put the money toward something else that will help alleviate overcrowding.
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