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State delays demolition of 'eyesore'

MONTOUR FALLS—Schuyler County is accusing the state of New York of dragging its feet on demolition of vacant buildings across Franklin Street from Watkins Glen State Park.
The state bought the buildings, a former souvenir shop and ice cream parlor known as the Teddy Bear’s Den, in May 2008. Officials said they would raze the structures and create parking for park visitors.
“This project has been going on for two years now,” said Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn. ‘The state has had almost two years to act on this. It creates a huge eyesore.”
The county legislature Monday (June 8) approved a resolution calling on the state to honor its commitment to the county and the village by proceeding with demolition and cleanup of the site.
“The property continues to sit in disrepair, portraying an image of blight at the gateway to an otherwise vibrant community,” the resolution says.
O’Hearn said a contract for demolition has been signed but that “everything is frozen because of the state budget situation.” Legislator Stewart Field told the legislaure’s Resolution Review Committee that he understands the state has no plans for work on the property until late fall.
The state’s purchase of the property took about $1 million in asssessed value off the village and county tax rolls. Tim Joseph, regional director of Finger Lakes State Parks, said the agency plans to complete the demolition and create a parking area this summer.
“Things are held up in the state budget office,” Joseph said. “It’s on our list and it’s in the budget office for approval. We’re expecting to get this done this summer, but I can’t promise anything.”
Long-term, Joseph said, the agency plans to redesign the whole lower end of the park and could use the property for a visitor center.
In other action, Legislator Dennis Fagan questioned change orders that have driven up the price of a new security system for county buildings being installed by Day Automation Systems.
Changes have increased the price tag on the project from $271,471 to $302,370, an increase of 11.3 percent.
“I think it’s just the scope and length of the project,” O’Hearn said. “I don’t know it’s any fault of the contractor.”
The lawmakers also approved a measure that sets the salaries of legislators and several other public officials through 2013. Beginning in 2010, the salaries will be adjusted annually based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.
Currently, legislators are paid $7,143. The salaries of the other officers involved are sheriff, $69,573; county clerk, $57,573, and district attorney, $124,113.
The district attorney’s salary is set by the state and is subject to change, officials said.

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