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Government & Politics
Irvington News

Irvington Asks Residents to Approve Record $18 Million Bond for New Municipal Complex

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October 12, 2023

By Barrett Seaman–

Sometimes grand solutions grow out of little problems. That seems to be the case with Irvington’s proposed 23,000 sq. ft. municipal complex on Main Street. This one started with a plea by the village’s fire department to enlarge the bays in the old fire house in order to accommodate the newer, larger fire trucks.

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That turned out to be more complicated than anticipated, and as table napkin estimates of the costs rose, so did alternative ideas on how to do something bigger—if costlier.

The fire house problem joined forces with the Town Hall Theater entrance problem, the inadequately-spaced and insecure courtroom/trustee meeting room issues, the question of how best to relocate the police firing range, as well as the issue of rabbit warren office spaces various village departments called home.

Put them all together in one big package, and you have the makings of an $18.2 million bond issue, one that would be, acknowledges Village Administrator Larry Schopfer, “the single largest capital project in our history.”

On November 7th, Irvingtonians will have a chance to vote yea or nay on whether to authorize borrowing that much money. The village’s Board of Trustees hope that voters will approve it and thus allow Irvington to build a consolidated municipal complex affecting eight different village departments.

In preparation for the vote, the village is holding two “open house-style information sessions”—the first on Saturday, October 14, and the second on Wednesday, the 18th in the main lobby of Village Hall. There, village officials and their hired architects will try to sell citizens on the virtue as well as the necessity of the plan.

Fixing or relocating the fire house has been on the village agenda on and off since 1990. Each proposed solution turned out to have more flaws than assets, with the least flawed being a re-build of the existing site on Main Street across from Village Hall. By buying up adjacent properties bordering South Ferris Street, the village got enough land to create bays big enough to house the new behemoth fire engines, as well as enhance the training facilities used by both volunteer firefighters and EMTs.

With the extra land provided by the adjacent property purchases, there is sufficient space to construct a new administrative center, allowing the Building Department, Clerk-Treasurer’s staff, the Village Administrator—all currently housed on the main floor of Village Hall—to move across the street to roomier quarters. So too will the judge’s chambers/court room/trustees’ meeting room, currently on the ground floor. The new court will provide more security as well as seating capacity of up to 100. That will free up space to expand police department quarters, which currently have inadequate rest rooms and a secure place for juveniles to interact with police.

The police department’s current practice firing range in the woods opposite the reservoir on Harriman Road will find a new home in the basement of the new municipal center, protected by sound-dampening technology.

Upstairs in the old Village Hall, the theater will have ADA-compliant elevators as well as the more elegant grand staircase entry coming off of the front door on Main Street. There too, larger restrooms will replace wholly inadequate ones available for theatergoers now.

While the interior of Village Hall will be essentially gutted, the exterior will be conserved according to the requirements of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has it designated as an historic building.

By moving the Recreation & Parks staff into the new municipal center, the Rec’s current headquarters in a converted church down the hill will be empty and available for repurposing or outright sale.

How voters will react to the plan remains to be seen, with the two information sessions offering the first glimpses of how they will take to the idea of borrowing so much money. The project, the village has posted on its web site, “will be funded with tax-exempt municipal bonds with a life of 25 years. The initial years of the project (2024-2026) will likely be funded with short-term, one-year notes with permanent long-term financing put in place upon completion of the project. However, this plan can be altered depending on debt market conditions.”

Recent market condition allow the village to estimate that it will cost them 5.18%, resulting in an additional annual tax levy of $765 for the average taxpayer, which adds up to $19,131 over the 25-year life of the bond.

There will be ways, Schopfer hastens to explain, to mitigate that burden. One way would be for the village to tap into its “balanced funds” account for up to $3.5 million without breaching accounting requirements/ That could cut the added tax burden by $40-a-month for 25 years.

Another would be to seek and apply for state and federal grants. Every grant dollar would reduce the taxpayer burden, albeit by an unknown amount.

If referendum passes, it will be followed by a period of three or four months refining the design, That will likely be followed by six months of bidding. Barring unforeseen delays, the project would be completed sometime in late 2026.

The information sessions will be held in main lobby of Village Hall on Saturday, October 14 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Wednesday, October 18 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Those interested in attending should use the Main Street entrance to access the session location.

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