By Rockland County Executive Ed Day
Now, after 10 months, the Legislature has finally moved on the well-delayed plan to unload the crumbling Sain Building.
My administration months ago issued a request for proposals and got a bid for $4.51 million – more than the asking price – to sell this unneeded building that is falling apart.
The Legislature, for reasons known only to itself, rejected that offer and said it wanted to put out its own request for bids to sell the property.
It has finally taken the first step by approving Tuesday night specifications for a bid.
My office has pledged its cooperation to get this process moving as fast as possible.
We can only hope that we get an offer quickly and complete the sale of the Sain Building by the end of the fiscal year.
The Legislature’s failure to do so has already created a $4 million budget hole and forced us to take the drastic step of implementing austerity to protect our finances.
The Legislature acted on another initiative from my administration that is also crucial to the future of the county: the partial reconstruction of Building A at the Dr. Robert Yeager Health Center in Pomona.
The Legislature approved my request for a $1.7 million bond so we can make renovations to Building A that will allow us to move entire departments from the Sain Building into this empty space.
We will also do an engineering study to see how we can most efficiency use the space in Building A.
Much of this county-owned building became vacant when we were forced to close the Summit Park nursing home after the buyer backed out at the last minute.
We hope to move county employees out of the Sain Building, which is an uncomfortable working place that is truly ready to meet the wrecking ball.
We want to get those departments – personnel, finance, youth bureau, among others – out of the Sain building and move them into Building A, which has plenty of space.
But that is only the start of our plan for Building A.
We envision this building, which is attached to other county offices in the Pomona complex, becoming the center of a wide range of services and collaborations serving county residents.
Not long ago, Building A was preparing and serving 2,000 meals every day. A fully operational kitchen – one of the largest in the county – is still in that building.
Why not use it?
We want to develop public-private partnerships that would use that kitchen to refrigerate food distributed by the network on pantries. Those pantries could serve so many more people and make better use of donated food if they had storage space and refrigeration capacity.
We could also work with agencies serving the unemployed, including the disabled and veterans, to train people to work in the kitchen, serve food in the cafeteria, form businesses. Even RCC has expressed interest in holding culinary classes there.
We can sublet space to non-profit agencies, brining both revenue to our tax base and consistency for our services.
We can move more of our county departments into Building A and sell or repurpose some of the older structures in the Pomona complex, including the Department of Social Services, which is housed in a former sanatorium.
That building could serve so many functions. We are under orders from Governor Cuomo to provide emergency shelter when the temperature dips below freezing.
Why not create emergency housing options within the complex?
We are also looking at office space in Building A for law enforcement units that could save taxpayers up to $400,000 yearly.
We have so many innovative plans to use this space to make our government more efficient and effective.
Approval of this bond is the first step. The possibilities are endless.