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Massena plans to bond to repair town hall

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MASSENA — The Massena Town Council hopes to use savings from refinancing its bond to help to pay for up to $3.5 million in repairs and renovations to the downtown municipal building that houses the village and town offices.

Supervisor Joseph D. Gray said the town will bond to pay for repairs to the town hall, including addressing roof problems that have resulted in leaking over the courtroom on the building’s second floor.

Mr. Gray would like the bonds financed with enough time for the town to secure bids before spring and start work as soon as the weather permits. “We have to get that work done,” he said. “We just can’t wait.”

Highway Superintendent Frank Diagostino noted that water is leaking into both the courtroom and server room, where a number of computers are stored, on the north side of the building, and ceiling tiles are starting to fall out. Equipment has not yet been damaged nor have court dates been interrupted.

The roof began to leak after the snow from late December melted during the recent thaw, Mr. Gray said. The reason for the leaking has yet to be determined.

“I’ve been up there trying to figure out what’s going on,” Mr. Diagostino said. “We found a few minor cracks that we patched up, but we went up in a crawl space and saw water running down the structural steel.”

Two drains meet over that portion of the building, one of which is higher than the roof itself. “Obviously over time water will find its way in,” he said. “We thought we could see, but who knows where the water is coming in.”

The roof was installed about 10 years ago, which left some town officials wondering about its effectiveness.

“We have to find out why — if it’s a problem with the installation or if it has outlived its usefulness,” Mr. Gray said.

Town officials weren’t able to provide the name of the contractor that installed the roof.

Mr. Gray estimated the work to cost between a minimum of $1.5 million to $2 million and a maximum of $3 million to $3.5 million. He plans to work with C&S, a Syracuse-based engineering firm that has been responsible for work at the Massena International Airport for the past 25 years, on the building improvement plan process.

He said the annual payments for the new bonds likely will be covered by the savings from refinancing bonds held by the town and Massena Memorial Hospital. Refinancing now could significantly lower the interest rates on the bonds, saving the hospital a projected $780,000 and the town a projected $169,000 over the next 15 years, according to town Bookkeeper Nancy Fregoe.

However, hospital officials would prefer to wait until mid-2013 to avoid fees associated with refinancing bonds before they mature, Mr. Gray told the town board in December. Town officials have said the fees for refinancing the bonds will be in the $80,000 range.

Mr. Gray plans to meet with officials from the hospital and Fiscal Advisors & Marketing, a bond advisement organization, to discuss the pros and cons of the hospital refinancing its bonds. If it chooses not to, Mr. Gray said, the town would consider refinancing its outstanding bonds on its own.

The refinancing could lower the interest rates on the bonds from 4.125 to 2 percent, Ms. Fregoe said. The $11 million bonds were taken out in 2003, $8.9 million of which went to refinance MMH’s capital improvement project and the rest went to improvements to the Massena Town Hall and Massena International Airport, Ms. Fregoe said.

Mr. Gray plans to look for grants through the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency and the United States Department of Agriculture, but he noted there are limited sources of grant funding available for these types of projects.

At Wednesday’s town board meeting, Mr. Gray said they could receive a maximum of $30,000 from the DOA, but due to the numerous grant requirements the town would have to fulfil, he doesn’t expect the town to receive any significant funding. “Because of all these other entanglements that come with this federal money — being equal opportunity, meeting certain requirements for minority-owned businesses, minority-owned contractors, etc. - it is very hard to meet some of those requirements,” he said.

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