Bringing Home the Bacon

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?

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7 thoughts on “Bringing Home the Bacon

  1. Diane

    Jerry,

    It is not the city that was pushing to make the decision. It is the school board, so that they can put it on the ballot with the school budget. They need 45 days to do that, that is why they are pushing. Otherwise it will be a cost to the city for a special referendum. The ball is in the district’s court now. I agree there should be more study. It concerns me also, we have serious financial problems.

    Rob did say that there is a group of people that are willing to fund raise and that others are willing to donate equipment. It is going to be tough if it goes thru.

    We just cannot afford this, at this time.

    • Diane,
      My point was that the process should not be rushed or dictated by the scheduled vote. What’s another 10 grand if we will be spending over a million on this project?

      Fund raisers are a nice gesture, but there are not enough spaghetti dinners in Amsterdam to put a dent in the funding needed for this project. There needs to be a business plan in place in order to move forward. Speculation is not a business plan.

      I just learned the GASD will be meeting Thursday night at 6PM to discuss the Common Council’s rejection of their $250,000. counter offer.

  2. Diane

    I don’t disagree Jerry and those very points were brought up last night. Guess we will have to see what Thursday brings.

  3. Diane

    Jerry, is the zoning meeting still for tonight? Is not on the city’s web page.

    Thanks Diane

  4. Alayne

    Simple, if these folks want to play venture capitalists, that is fine, do it on their own dime. It is disturbing, to say the least, that the folks on the common council have not put more thought into this. Any 1st year business student (or high school student for that matter) is able to realize that a) the city is in no financial position to take on any additional responsibilities, and b) this is an extremely high risk project, and it would be unfair to burden the taxpayers (or anyone else) with such risk.
    It is very disappointing to think that the common council would even consider approving a project of this magnitude (almost $1 million), on a whim. It is even more disappointing that no one in city hall or on the council has even requested a formal business plan. Seriously folks?!? The members of the common council that vote to approve and push this project through, without any of the much needed details to make an informed decision, need to be voted OUT OF OFFICE IN NOVEMBER!
    I have heard a lot of crazy ideas in the last few years, but, this one by far takes the cake!

  5. robert purtell

    My reasoning is as follows:
    1. I give Rob Spagnola credit, he really does his job well, probably better than anyone before him.
    2. I do feel that the sports center is an interesting concept.
    3. I do not think the location is the best location for the same.
    4.I do not feel that the building is appropriate.
    5. I feel that the building maintenace will be a drain on the City of Amsterdam.
    6. I am not sure that the neighborhood is ready for the foot traffic that will be probable.
    7. Amsterdam has an ample amount of parks now and $650,000 would go along way to increase the potential of the rather large parks.
    8. Supporting anything because of “time is of the essence” is ussually not a well thought out process.
    9. Lastly what will the city of Amsterdam do with the property if this does not work out financially? tear it down?

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