MOOERS — The mountain of rubble on the corner of Route 11 and Maple Street means one empty building on that stretch is on its way out.
Others, however, are likely to remain vacant, officials say, unless public water, sewer or both can be installed.
The buildings are too close together to allow enough land for proper individual septic systems, says Town Supervisor Jeff Menard.
“That was part of the issue with this building here,” he said of the former E.F. Drown Funeral Home, which fell into a state of disrepair as it sat empty.
Across Route 11 is the former Neverette’s Grocery and apartment building, long unused.
“There are three or four houses that are vacant,” Menard said.
And not far away is the former post office building with apartments upstairs.
A project to rehab that structure, the supervisor said, “is on hold right now because of septic (issues).”
Menard and previous Town Supervisor Cory Ross had both cited the blighted Mooers hamlet area as top-priority issues during their campaigns, as did Town Council candidates.
“I want to try to get a sewer system in the village,” Menard said last week.
He’ll be networking at the upcoming Association of Towns conference in New York City to learn just how to go about winning funding, he said.
“It’s been a long time overdue,” Code Enforcement Officer Jess Dixon said. “There are some nice homes (on Route 11), but water quality? I’m not sure.”
As well, he said, property owners that have vacant buildings need to step up and take care of them so they don’t end up like the old Funeral Home.
“It’s not just along Main Street (Route 11),” he said. “Something needs to be done with them before an accident happens.”
Officials were particularly concerned about the Funeral Home, as children walk to Mooers Elementary School past that property, school buses stop there.
In the year or so Dixon has held the position, two deteriorated structures were done away with — Mooers Volunteer Fire Department got some practice with controlled burns.
“Got rid of those two,” he said.
Looking at the bigger picture, Dixon wants to see the town adopt a new comprehensive plan that would address issues such as infrastructure.
“Our stormwater system is very, very old,” he noted.
The last plan he could find is dated 1981, and that’s decades too ancient, the code officer said.
“We won’t get any help from the government (grants, etc.) unless we have a comprehensive plan.”
The town has taken the first step toward starting that in-depth study; Dixon is collecting names of potential members for a new Planning Board.
“I’d rather have five people think about (what the town needs) than one,” he said. “We’re a small town with big-town problems — we need a planning board, a comprehensive plan.”
And the town needs new life breathed into it, officials agree.
They are encouraged by the adult home under construction in the former Knights of Columbus Hall on Maple Street, just a short distance from the wreckage of the Funeral Home.
A private facility, it would offer bedrooms for a total 30 residents — some doubles, some private — according to owner Dean Nephew, along with a cafeteria serving three meals a day, two common areas with television and space for games and other activities.
Staffed 24-7, Maple Street Residential Living would have security cameras, key-card access so residents “will have a safe, secure place to live,” he said.
For folks who aren’t yet ready for assisted living, the adult home will allow seniors in the Mooers/Champlain area to stay close to home, Nephew continued.
He knows of a woman from Mooers Forks who was forced to move to appropriate housing in Ticonderoga because there was nothing closer, he said,
“That makes it very hard.”
Work has been progressing on the adult home.
“The rooms upstairs have been divided,” Nephew said. “New wiring is in.
“We’re just waiting for the bank to approve us for the remainder of what needs to be done.”
The design includes an addition with offices and and a living-room-type area where families can meet privately. And the facility needs a new septic system.
“The existing septic isn’t big enough,” Nephew said.
It would save him $40,000 or so were the town to put in public sewer, he said, but his timetable won’t allow him to wait for infrastructure that might or might not come to be.
Nephew expects to start digging the septic system in the spring and that overall construction, including the addition, would take four to six months.
“We’re hoping for the fall of this year at the very latest,” he said, noting that the home would provide eight to 12 full-time jobs.
“We’re really excited,” he said. “I think this is something that’s a very great need — most people want to stay where they’re from.”
“There’s a definite need,” Menard agreed — not only to provide housing for elders, but for the benefit of the town, too,
“Definitely, it would be a good boost,” he said, “a little bit of something going on.”
JOIN THE BOARD
To express interest in serving on the Town of Mooers Planning Board, call Jess Dixon at the Town Office Complex, 236-7927, Ext. 106.