Tuesday, September 20, 2011

$16 Million for Old Walmart? - Lee's Sept 20 Letter to the Editor
To the editor:

The Board of Supervisors have balked at committing to a $16 million project to buy and renovate  the abandoned Walmart on Fairview Ave in  the Town of Greenport.  As well they might! They have been struggling among a bunch of bad choices for years.

Now, the sweetheart lease ( $30,000 per month rent! ) at 25 Railroad Ave is finally ending and better choices can be made.

Why should the County embark on a $16 million project at Walmart when that money will provide not one dime of services to needy people in our County? They shouldn't.

This $16 million will go to a real estate deal and renovation  of a too-big, ugly, depressing and expensive building and it will still be a too-big, ugly, depressing and expensive building – that needs a new roof! Then, it may have with a 20 year shelf-life.

In fact, Walmart is so big that it's actually too big for DSS! The next desperate proposal was to make use of ALL this space, under one leaky roof, and drain some twenty-four County programs from Hudson --  Aging to Vets -- out  to Walmart. Ideas were invented for more storage, garages,  lunchrooms, fitness areas – and three additional not-for-profits to be named later (in their dreams). This was not exactly a welcome idea to Hudson City leadership.

Next, the price tag for all these moves starts nudging $24 million, according to Hudson Supervisor Bill Hughes. We haven't even started to figure in ongoing yearly expenses for heat, utilities, etc. for all this unneeded space. We haven't even started figuring the economic toll of the abandoned office space in Hudson.

Time to think outside the Big Box!

This is the 21st Century. This is the era of laptops, fax machines, cell-phones, smart-phones and iPads. If the issue is really only space for DSS, let's put service providers out in the community where people live. There are plenty of existing models for home-delivered services. I worked in DSS's Teen Parent Program which was such a model. Once a month I handed in bills and reports and met with a supervisor. Otherwise, I was out in the field with moms and babies, connecting them with housing, health clinics, daycare, parenting education, GED, shopping and jobs. I wasn't stuck in a cubicle pushing paper while stressed people with cranky children waited in line in a big, ugly, depressing , expensive building.

Paperwork can be digitized and done from home, clients without computers can access the web at their school or library, supervisors can meet with caseworkers in various community centers and Town Halls around the County, staff training can be held at Columbia Greene Community College or provider agencies, auditors and billing staff can be tucked in with other agency billing offices.  Caseworkers can hit the street and become real community workers.

Let's spend our dwindling tax dollars getting important  services to the needy and creating jobs in our community – and not a dime on another Big Box!

Lee Jamison