2011-02-17 / General Stories

State Dormitory Authority Funds Office Buildings, Too

Staff Reports

It would appear that of all public agencies in the Empire State, the Dormitory Authority of New York is one of the most popular to contact when seeking money for town office renovations or community projects such as covered bridges. Most recently in Putnam County, the Town of Putnam Valley has sought grants administered through the Authority to make renovations to their town hall.

The Courier’s story on a Dormitory Authority-administered grant to construct a footbridge in Patterson last week has left some residents vexed. Patty Villanova, a local noted tax watchdog, alerted the Courier that this week’s Putnam Valley board meeting agenda mentioned a grant between the town and the Authority.

As the Courier was going to press Wednesday, the Putnam Valley town board was scheduled to vote for authorization to have Supervisor Bob Tendy sign a contract with the Dormitory Authority to receive a $50,000 grant to support energy efficiency in the town hall.

According to Susan Manno, Putnam Valley facility manager and grant administrator, the grant’s approval has already made it through the channels at the Dormitory Authority. If the town board allows Tendy to sign the grant contract, the money will go toward installing photovoltaic panels that measure energy usage within the town hall. Proponents claim this will lower the cost of energy bills.

Manno said former state senator Vincent Leibell, who pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges in December, had recommended that the town contact the Authority to help fund the project.

This isn’t the first grant that the Authority has administered to Putnam Valley. Last year, a grant of $250,000 was approved to fund the construction of an addition to the back of the town hall. The grant’s intended funding is “to provide additional office space to the town hall and more record storage.”

Manno said that once the construction plans are approved, and after a contractor is chosen, this grant will be received in reimbursement installments. Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, who has given herself a reputation for not issuing grants via socalled member items, had suggested the town apply for that grant through the Dormitory Authority in 2008.

Galef told the Courier that she signed off on the project back in 2007, but she wasn't certain of the application process once it left her office for the Authority’s review.

“They approached me,” Galef said, “saying they really wanted to do energy efficiency in the town building and I thought, you know, that is a good project. If we can save taxpayers' money and we can save the environment, that's a good thing.”

The $250,000 grant is the minimum amount given for a New York State Economic Development grant under the Dormitory Authority. “These grants [will be] a tremendous asset to our town,” Manno said.

The $50,000 grant is under the Authority’s Community Capital Assistance Program; this is also the minimum amount given for this type of grant.

According to the Authority’s annual report, this grant “assist[s]community improvement within New York, including education, transportation, and economic development projects.”

As the Courier reported, the Dormitory Authority is a state agency founded in 1944; originally, its mission was to build dormitories at state teachers’ colleges. But over the decades, its mission has evolved to include funding the construction of college residence halls, education, and healthcare facilities. In 2008, the Authority administered a grant of $250,000 to the Hudson Valley Trust, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded by Leibell, to build a covered footbridge in a quiet Patterson field.

The bridge is just a few hundred feet from the Lawlor Building, which was renovated with taxpayer grant money obtained by the Hudson Valley Trust and which served as an office for Leibell and other organizations.

Notably, the Authority had planned to administer another $1 million to the Trust for a barn restoration project this year. The old barn, located in the open field just past the footbridge, was proposed to become a library. The restoration plans were criticized by the town’s historical society for its lack of historic integrity. However, due to a moratorium on building applications for nonprofits in Patterson, the grant was never received and the project put on hold.

To read the full story “‘Dormitory Authority’ Builds a Bridge” from last week’s Courier, click here.

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