The former Clara S. Bacon Elementary School at 40 Henrietta Blvd is again creating controversy in Amsterdam. The building and grounds owned by the Amsterdam School District was to be sold to the World Peace and Health Organization for a whopping $460,000. When that organization backed out of the sale, a proposal was put forth by City Recreation Director Rob Spagnola to have the City buy the property and turn it into a Recreation Center.
With no professional business plan or marketing survey done, the Common Council acted on the purely speculative proposal by placing a bid on the property for $150,000. Spagnola’s proposed start up cost have ranged wildly from $130,000 to $650,000. for building repairs and equipment. The City’s plan is to bond for the building cost, ultimately paying $420,000. over a 20 year period. There was no discussion of how this building will be staffed or maintained nor was there any mention of the cost of liability insurance.
To top it all off, City Government wants to rush the purchase so it will be on the same ballot as the Amsterdam School District Budget. Woah, stop the presses! The school isn’t going anywhere. If this plan is worthwhile as stated, get a professional opinion about its feasibility as a business. Get a professional building survey and estimate for repair. The last thing this City needs is another drain on the taxpayers. We already have the golf course that fails to produce revenue.
The Amsterdam School District has made a counter offer to the City of $250,000. for the property. That is $210,000. less than the Chinese Buddhists were charged for the same property less than 6 months ago.
How can the City of Amsterdam afford to finance this pipe dream when we cannot even balance an annual budget or fix our failing infrastructure. We still have fire hydrants that fail, buildings in need of demolition or repair. We have too many projects waiting to be completed to take on another. Chalmers Building demolition, the Tonko Bridge, the Via Ponte Project, sewer and storm drain project etc.
If the City is serious about this project, at least hire a professional to determine actual cost of rehab and a market study to see if such a venture would be profitable before acquiring yet another unmanageable tax-free property. Better yet, market the site as a profitable recreation center to a private investor so the City can profit from the taxes and utility fees as well.
Perhaps the Mayor could ask Uri Kaufman to invest in Bacon, or wouldn’t that be Kosher?