No state ap­proval for court over­haul

Pro­posal to re­lo­cate fa­cil­ity goes be­fore vot­ers next week

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

KINGSTON >> The state Of­fice for Court Ad­min­is­tra­tion said Fri­day it never gave fi­nal ap­proval to plans to ren­o­vate the cur­rent Ul­ster County Fam­ily Court fa­cil­ity.

Lu­cien Chalfen, pub­lic in­for­ma­tion di­rec­tor for the of­fice, said the plans de­vel­oped by an ar­chi­tect for GD Realty were “con­cep­tual in na­ture.”

Ar­chi­tect Scott Dut­ton tes­ti­fied at a hear­ing in state Supreme Court in Oc­to­ber that he worked with the Of­fice for Court Ad­min­is­tra­tion to pre­pare a ren­o­va­tion plan for GD Realty, the owner of the build­ing at 16 Lu­cas Ave. in Up­town Kingston

where the county’s Fam­ily Court cur­rently is lo­cated. That es­ti­mate, pre­pared in June 2014, pegged the cost of ren­o­va­tions at roughly $3 mil­lion.

Ul­ster County Leg­is­la­tor David Don­ald­son, at a meet­ing with other county law­mak­ers on Thurs­day, said Dut­ton tes­ti­fied dur­ing that hear­ing that the Of­fice of Court Ad­min­is­tra­tion had given its ap­proval to the plans de­vel­oped by Dut­ton. And un­der ques­tion­ing by Don­ald­son’s at­tor­ney, Daniel Hepp­ner, Dut­ton tes­ti­fied those ap­provals were never with­drawn.

But Chalfen said fi­nal ap­proval was not given.

“I am told that our chief ar­chi­tect had con­ver­sa­tions in the spring of 2014 and that those de­signs were con­cep­tual in na­ture and noth­ing of­fi­cial,” Chalfen said. “There is a for­mal process through which these ef­forts must pass and they were ad­vised of that process in July 2014.”

Chalfen said the plan pro­posed by the build­ing’s owner and ar­chi­tect called for a “mul­ti­phased” project that “would have re­quired ex­ten­sive work.”

“It would have in­volved adding a stair, re­lo­cat­ing the pub­lic en­try, cre­at­ing a new pris­oner en­try and re­con­fig­ur­ing many el­e­ments of the ex­ist­ing fa­cil­ity,” he wrote.

Chalfen said the Lu­cas Av­enue build­ing was one of many op­tions the county ex­plored, in­clud­ing buy­ing the ex­ist­ing build­ing, which it cur­rently leases.

“Ul­ti­mately, Ul­ster County of­fered us the Busi­ness Re­source Cen­ter space,” Chalfen said, adding that the site, in the neigh­bor­ing town of Ul­ster, pro­vides a “large, blank can­vass and the abil­ity to con­struct a far bet­ter fa­cil­ity and do it without any in­con­ve­nience to the users of the build­ing.”

“Also, the time to con­struct the [Busi­ness Re­source Cen­ter] site would be a frac­tion of the time it would take to ren­o­vate and re­con­fig­ure the oc­cu­pied Lu­cas Ave fa­cil­ity,” he wrote.

Ul­ster County has come un­der pres­sure from the state Of­fice of Court Ad­min­is­tra­tion to up­grade its Fam­ily Court fa­cil­i­ties, which the state has called “wholly in­ad­e­quate.”

The Leg­is­la­ture voted in June to put a propo­si­tion on the Nov. 8 bal­lot to move the court to the county-owned Busi­ness Re­source Cen­ter.

Un­der state law, that pro­posed move re­quires voter ap­proval be­cause the Busi­ness Re­source Cen­ter is out­side the county seat, which is the city of Kingston.

The pro­posed move has an­gered some county law­mak­ers, who say mov­ing the court out of Kingston will hurt the city.

In Oc­to­ber, Leg­is­la­tors David Don­ald­son and John Parete sued the county over the word­ing of the bal­lot propo­si­tion, which they said was mis­lead­ing. But a state Supreme Court jus­tice up­held the bal­lot lan­guage.

Don­ald­son, D-Kingston, then turned his at­ten­tion to de­feat­ing the propo­si­tion, and on Thurs­day, he and Parete, D-Boiceville, made a pre­sen­ta­tion to a hand­ful of other leg­is­la­tors, say­ing Ul­ster 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.

On Fri­day, Don­ald­son and Parete filed a com­plaint against Hein with Ul­ster County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Hol­ley Carn­right, claim­ing a mass mail­ing sent by the county and re­ceived by vot­ers Thurs­day “was an ef­fort to pro­mote his opin­ion against all oth­ers is a mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of funds.”

Hein late Fri­day said Carn­right re­sponded that there was noth­ing wrong with the mail­ing.

Mid-Hud­son News Net­work quoted a writ­ten re­ply from Carn­right that stated: “There is no ev­i­dence of crim­i­nal­ity that would war­rant my of­fice’s in­volve­ment.”

Un­der state law, that pro­posed move re­quires voter ap­proval be­cause the Busi­ness Re­source Cen­ter is out­side the county seat, which is the city of Kingston.

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