Don­ald­son presses fight against mov­ing Fam­ily Court

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­tri­cia Doxsey pdoxsey@free­manon­ pat­ti­at­free­man on Twit­ter

KINGSTON >> Still an­gry over the word­ing of a propo­si­tion ask­ing vot­ers if Ul­ster County’s Fam­ily Court should be moved out of the city, Leg­is­la­tor David Don­ald­son now wants to see the mea­sure de­feated, and he’s hop­ing to en­list other law­mak­ers.

Don­ald­son, D-Kingston, has de­vel­oped Power Point pre­sen­ta­tion that he hopes will con­vince his fel­low leg­is­la­tors that they were hood­winked into vot­ing to move the court from its cur­rent leased lo­ca­tion on Lu­cas Av­enue to the county-owned Busi­ness Re­source Cen­ter in the town of Ul­ster.

Don­ald­son claims the ad­min­is­tra­tion of County Ex­ec­u­tive Michael Hein with­held in­for­ma­tion and mis­led law­mak­ers into be­liev­ing the Lu­cas Av­enue site would be too ex­pen­sive to ren­o­vate and that the cost of ren­o­vat­ing the Busi­ness Re­source Cen­ter would be cheaper than it ac­tu­ally will be.

“I be­lieve [mov­ing to the Busi­ness Re­source Cen­ter] was the plan all along, that’s why they moved the col­lege out, and they did not want to stray from that plan,” Don­ald­son said. SUNY Ul­ster re­cently re­lo­cated its Kingston-area op­er­a­tion from the Busi-

ness Re­source Cen­ter to the for­mer So­phie Finn El­e­men­tary School in Mid­town Kingston

County Leg­is­la­ture Chair­man Ken Ronk dis­missed Don­ald­son’s claims, say­ing the leg­is­la­tor is grasp­ing at straws in an at­tempt to keep Fam­ily Court within Kingston’s boundaries.

The county has been un­der pres­sure since 2013 to pro­vide ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties for Fam­ily Court. In 2014, Deputy County Ex­ec­u­tive Sud­low told law­mak­ers the build­ing’s owner had de­vel­oped a $7 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion plan, though that num­ber was changed to $6 mil­lion — in­clud­ing the pur­chase of the build­ing — in 2015. In 2016, the idea of ren­o­vat­ing the build­ing was no longer be­ing pre­sented by the Hein ad­min­is­tra­tion as an op­tion.

Dur­ing a re­cent court ac­tion brought by Don­ald­son and Leg­is­la­tor John Parete, D-Boiceville, to force a change in the word­ing of the Nov. 8 bal­lot propo­si­tion, the owner’s

ar­chi­tect tes­ti­fied he cre­ated a $2.3 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion plan for the Lu­cas Av­enue site. That in­for­ma­tion, Don­ald­son said, was never given to the Leg­is­la­ture.

Sud­low said that study, com­mis­sioned by the build­ing’s owner, was never pro­vided to the county. Scott Dut­ton, the ar­chi­tect who pre­pared the study for the build­ing owner, tes­ti­fied that he worked with the state Of­fice of Court Ad­min­is­tra­tion to de­velop the plan but said he did not pro­vide a copy of the study to the county.

Sud­low also said the es­ti­mate failed to in­clude the county’s costs of con­struc­tion, in­clud­ing pay­ing pre­vail­ing wages, and didn’t es­ca­late the costs for the con­struc­tion time frame.

Ronk called the Dut­ton pro­posal un­re­al­is­tic and said it looked like some­body “telling his em­ployer how to do some­thing at the ab­so­lute low­est cost pos­si­ble.”

Ronk, R-Wal­lkill, said keep­ing Fam­ily Court in its cur­rent lo­ca­tion is “un­re­al­is­tic” and that it makes no sense to pur­chase an old build­ing that needs sig­nif­i­cant up­grades

when the county al­ready has a fa­cil­ity that sat­is­fies the state’s re­quire­ments and can be ren­o­vated eas­ily.

The cost of ren­o­va­tions at the Ul­ster site also have been a mov­ing tar­get, with the first study sug­gest­ing $4.7 mil­lion, while a 2016 study pegged the cost, in 2018 dol­lars, at $10.4 mil­lion.

“I don’t think this was a bait-and-switch,” Ronk said. “I be­lieve I had enough in­for­ma­tion to make an in­formed de­ci­sion, and I think the Leg­is­la­ture voted over­whelm­ing to move the Busi­ness Re­source Cen­ter.

He said that in ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing the court with ad­e­quate space, and room to ex­pand in the fu­ture, the pro­posed move pro­vides the county with a num­ber of other ef­fi­cien­cies and doesn’t take an­other city par­cel off the tax rolls, which would hap­pen if the county bought the Lu­cas Av­enue build­ing.

Be­cause county courts are re­quired to be lo­cated in the county seat, which in Ul­ster County is the city of Kingston, mov­ing a courts to a dif­fer­ent mu­nic­i­pal­ity re­quires voter ap­proval.


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