HUDSON — Columbia County is giving the city first dibs on the vacant John L. Edwards Primary School building after the Common Council passed a resolution agreeing to join the county to conduct a feasibility study on sharing the building to relocate certain departments.
The county sent a letter dated Sept. 17 to Mayor Rick Rector and Common Council President Tom DiPietro stating the county is passing the lead on repurposing the 89,500-square-foot school building at 360 State St. to house various departments.
The council passed a resolution Sept. 4 to conduct a feasibility study on centralizing all its services, except the firehouse, police station and Department of Public Works in the former school building.
“Due to significant interest that the city has for JLE and a new list of proposed uses, it appears apparent that the city should become the lead agency in this proposed project and develop its own study of future uses,” according to the letter signed by Stuyvesant Town Supervisor Ronald Knott, who chairs the county committee exploring the possibility of future uses of the school building.
“If there is available space in the building after the city locates all the functions it desires, the city could then let the county know what space, if any, is available for shared services.”
The elementary school closed its doors after the end of the 2017-18 school year and students in kindergarten and first grade were moved into a new wing of the Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School at 102 Harry Howard Ave.
The Hudson City School District is looking to sell the Edwards building for about $4 million.
The county originally considered taking over the building to house a number of its departments including the board of supervisors, board of elections, the Civil Service Department, the county attorney, county controller, human resources, veterans services, county planning. the probation department, public defender’s office and the county historian.
The plan would have been to sell the buildings those departments are in after determining the value of those buildings and the cost of keeping those buildings running in the future.
The county formed a Space Utilization Committee that met Sept. 6 to discuss using the building for its own purposes. Rector and DiPietro attended the meeting to make sure the city had a say in the county’s final decision on the future of the building, at which time it was proposed the county may share some of the space with the city.
“This decision was made based on comments from the committee meeting and a conversation with all the supervisors about this,” Knott said Thursday. “We certainly can’t fit everyone in the building. So we sent the letter and we will see what their response is.”
The county facilities department has 4,500 square feet between administration offices, shops and storage space.
Rector told supervisors at the meeting the city only needs 15,000 square feet of space.
“I respect the fact the building is in the city,” Knott said. “So we put out a [request for proposal] to assess our building and what it will cost to bring them up to code and maintain them in the future.”
One of the Common Council’s priorities for the building is housing the city’s Youth Department, which is doing business in an old church building at 18 S. Third Street.
First Ward Alderman Kamal Johnson, a Hudson native who attended John L. Edwards, supports putting the Youth Department in the school building, he said, as long as it is not less space than the department has.
“[JLE] is a huge building, but there has been talk of so many other agencies moving into the building,” Johnson said. “I would love to see something productive happen with the building. And since it has served youth since the beginning I would like to see it continue to serve youth. We have to see what the layout will be.”
The city will have to sell properties to make the purchase and repurposing of the building work, Johnson said, a process that started with the city assessing its properties.
“This has great possibilities,” Johnson said. “Now we can go forward and do some planning.”