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Board holds off on new community center

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    A new proposed home for Cairo’s community center is the Angelo Canna Town Park.
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    The Acra Community Center’s sign on Old Route 23B.
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    The Acra Community Center on Old Route 23B.
September 21, 2018 06:56 pm

CAIRO — Building a new community center in the Angelo Canna Town Park in Cairo was discussed but not moved forward during the monthly Town Board meeting Wednesday.

The new center would be built in the park to replace the existing center on Old Route 23B, which has seen better days, Cairo Town Supervisor Daniel Benoit said during the meeting.

“It’s been spruced up a bit, but let’s face it, it’s old and it needs a lot of TLC,” Benoit said.

Cairo-based Kaaterskill Associates estimates a new 3,560-square-foot building would cost between $480,000 and $507,000, which would include a new town court, said Benoit, who is opposed to housing the town court with the community center.

“I don’t think we want the [court] clientele roaming around the town park,” he said. “That’s not the place to put the court attendees.”

It was suggested by Benoit the town court be part of the new community center to help resolve parking lot overflow on court days, Councilwoman Mary-Jo Cords said during the meeting.

“You were at the meeting where you suggested it,” Cords said to Benoit.

Benoit does not remember making the suggestion, but repeated his stance about keeping the two services separate.

“If I suggested it, I’m retracting my suggestion,” Benoit said.

The town court was renovated two years ago with increased office space and a new system for paying court fees, Councilman Dan Joyce said, adding the firehouse lot across the street from the town hall could be used for extra parking.

“Nothing says it can’t be contracted out for parking — well, the worse they can do is say no,” Joyce said. “It could be utilized and you work out a price with them to use that piece of property twice a month.”

Cords suggested holding off on the community center project because the town is involved with renovating an old building into an town ambulance squad center and funding needs to be found for that project, Cords said after the meeting.

“If we’re looking for grants, the two projects would be competing with each other and that would make it more difficult,” she said.

Benoit recently spoke with state Sen. George Amedore, R-46, who told the supervisor he could secure $50,000 for the town’s ambulance building project, Benoit said after the meeting, adding he was curious where all the money comes from.

“How many 50 grands does he have available to hand out?” Benoit said of Amedore. “At some point in time, the well runs dry with your hands out.”

Kaaterskill’s design proposal doesn’t provide sufficient space for a kitchen and storage areas, but removing the court out of the design could help, Cords said during the meeting.

“Even without the court facilities in there, probably the total amount of space that they suggested is probably all right,” Cords said. “The space is not really allocated properly, the kitchen is too small, the storage is too small.”

Moving the center to the park would make it more centrally located in the town and more people could visit it, Cords said after the meeting.

“We thought about relocating it because if we moved it somewhere in the center of town, the park would certainly be part of that,” she said.

The town received a $4,000 donation to build a senior area in the park three years ago and that money could not be put toward the new center, Benoit said.

“It was earmarked for recreation,” he said.

Acra Community Center staff and volunteers agree that a new space is needed to prepare food for the Meals on Wheels program.

The existing center lacks storage space and has water and sewer problems, Anna Ruth Greer, a 15-year center volunteer, said, adding the bathroom toilet stopped working five times this year.

“They need more storage space,” Greer said. “They’ve been talking about fixing this place for 10 years.”

Having the center in the park would make it easier for residents to come to the center, Greer said.

“If it was in the town park, more people would come,” she said.

The center’s kitchen is far too small for the amount of cooking going on, the center’s cook Elaine Cherrington said.

“We have three or four people at a time in that small kitchen,” she said. “We need more room in the kitchen.”

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.