BY COUNTY EXECUTIVE ED DAY
More than eight months ago I submitted my 2016 county budget to the Legislature, which included the plan to sell the Sain Building in New City for its appraised value: $4 million.
The Legislature’s response was to express doubts that anyone would spend $4 million on this eyesore.
In December the Legislature approved my budget with the projected $4 million income from the sale of the Sain Building built in, putting its stamp of approval on the plan.
We put out a request for proposals for the building and advertised it for sale so we could get the best deal.
And we did: a nationally known real estate company responded and offered $4.51 million – $510,000 more than its appraised value.
It was only when we informed the Legislature that we had a generous offer on the table from a legitimate, well-financed company that legislators began asking for “more information.”
Here’s more information: The Sain Building is falling apart. It would cost taxpayers at least $10 million to bring it up to code.
Here’s more information: Rockland’s taxpayers don’t have $10 million to spend on a crumbling building.
And here’s more information: We are already moving offices from the deteriorating Sain Building, where county employees have to endure an extremely unpleasant working environment, into Building A, which is empty.
The Legislature wants to know why we don’t sell Building A, on our Pomona campus, instead of the Sain Bulding.
There are a lot of reasons. Here are a few:
• Vital services are located in that building, including the entire MIS department, the Medical Examiner’s office, Purchasing, Facilities Management and Health Department clinics. Can you imagine the cost of relocating every one of these? 2nf floor
• Utilities – all of that building’s power is produced on the Pomona campus. Anyone who buys the building will have to install their own utility plant and arrange for separate utility connections. Fire suppression systems as well as the telephone system fire the entire complex would also have to be redesigned. Again, astronomical costs.
• Countywide communications systems are located on the Building A roof. In addition, the county leases space to a private company that has an antenna there – an easy $37,000 in revenue that would vanish if we sold the building.
• Liability issues – selling Building A while maintaining adjacent county properties would be akin to selling the second floor of your home. The county would be exposed to liabilities for conditions created by an independent owner in the middle of our property, especially if housing is built there, which is allowed under the Ramapo zoning code.
We had hoped to lease the Summit Park nursing home, located in Building A, to a nursing home operator who would have continued that legacy business. Leasing the nursing home operations would have meant that we would have retained some control over the building, with some vital offices still located there.
Unfortunately, the operator pulled from the deal at the last minute – forcing us to close Summit Park rather than saddle taxpayers with a $1 million monthly bill.
While Building A is now empty, the structure is irrevocably attached to county offices and functions that would be cost prohibitive to move.
In short, it’s not feasible to sell Building A. We have an offer on the table for $4.5 million to sell the Sain Building to a company that wants to build senior housing – something that is vitally needed in Rockland.
My goal is to shape a county government that is more efficient and cost-effective. Selling the Sain Building for more than its appraised value and relocating workers into an empty building while possibly subletting the rest of the building is both cost-effective and efficient.
Let me also remind the Legislature that it approved a budget that counts on $4 million in revenue from the sale of the Sain Building.
If we don’t sell the Sain Building how does the Legislature intend to fill that $4 million gap?
I will cut spending to avoid another deficit like the one I inherited that earned Rockland the distinction of the most fiscally stressed county in the state of New York.
Those cuts could be painful. And that pain will rest squarely on the Legislature’s lap.
It was bad financial decisions that brought this county to the brink of bankruptcy. Not accepting a $4.5 million offer for a county building that’s falling apart would be another one of them.
All of us owe it to the taxpayer to take advantage of this offer to sell the Sain Building, make our county government more efficient and leave us with a $500,000 surplus rather than $4 million worth of red ink.