State Police will vacate Essex County Public Safety Building
Operations likely to be consolidated in Ray Brook
LEWIS — State Police are moving their Troop B dispatch center and Zone 3 headquarters out of the Essex County Public Safety Building in Lewis so the county can use the space.
The 10-year lease State Police had expired in 2018 and police and the county have been unable to negotiate a new agreement since then.
Police will now vacate the Public Safety Building for new quarters within the next few months.
State Police Troop B radio dispatch, called BCOMM, was consolidated from Ray Brook Troop B Headquarters, Plattsburgh Zone 1 and Canton Zone 2 stations to the Public Safety Building, and will likely be unified now at Ray Brook, Troop B Commander Maj. Brent Davison said.
The Troop B Zone 3 headquarters in central Essex County, which was located in Westport at exit 31 of the Adirondack Northway until the Public Safety Building opened in 2008, will be relocated again.
“The New York State Police was in the process of negotiating a new lease with Essex County and had verbally come to terms,” Davison said by email. “We offered to pay the county the amount they asked for because our desire was to remain in the portion of the building that was designed for us.”
The rent had been $144,000 annually, or $12,000 a month, and the county was initially asking for another $5,000 a month, to $204,000 a year.
“Upon putting the agreement into writing, the county informed us we needed to vacate by Nov. 15 because they needed the space for county workers,” Davison said. “The time frame for us to have to move out may change, giving us more time to find another location.”
Essex County Manager Michael Mascarenas said State Police had about 12,000 square-feet of space in the Public Safety Building for their zone headquarters.
“Since 2018 the State Police have been paying month to month at the rate of the original lease agreement,” he said by email. “This rate is well below fair market value. As costs continue to increase, the amount that the Essex County taxpayer is having to contribute to keep them in that space has substantially grown.”
Then the county had a space crisis, Mascarenas said.
“Essex County and the New York State Police have not been able to agree upon an amount that would relieve the fiscal burden on the Essex County taxpayers,” he said. “In addition to these economic realities, during the last months of the negotiations, Essex County encountered serious, unanticipated immediate space problems which placed the county in the difficult position of having to use the space currently occupied by the State Police for county offices and other purposes.”
The county must remove the modular building used for storage by the County Board of Elections and the old jail building built in the late 1800s.
“We currently rent space at two different locations in the hamlet of Elizabethtown,” Mascarenas said. “We also have the old jail, which cannot be re-purposed, as the jail cells are the very structure that keeps that building upright. Essex County also has the Pod, which is located directly behind the old jail. The Pod was used to house inmates following the condemnation of the old Essex County Jail. The Pod currently houses our voting machines. These machines need to be kept in a temperature-controlled environment that can be accessed for maintenance.”
The county has $7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding that it must encumber by the end of 2024.
“As part of the ARPA plan, the county intends to utilize a portion of those funds to remove the old jail facility,” the county manager said. “To complete the removal of the old jail, we must also remove the POD which houses our voting machines. With no place to store those machines, the removal of the old jail cannot happen. Returning those funds would require the county to use local dollars to remove the old jail and further burden the local taxpayer.”
The county could rent, buy, or build additional space, but construction of an 11,000 square-foot building for the county was estimated at $6 million, Mascarenas said.
“The fourth option is we could use the space that we own and is currently occupied by the State Police,” he said. “Over time, we can return our staff to the Essex County facility and meet our storage needs for elections. We can do this without the need to build, rent, or buy additional space, without significant cost to the taxpayer. While we appreciate and respect our relationship with the New York State Police, circumstances have forced us into this difficult decision.”
State Police have several dispatch positions in the Essex County Enhanced 911 Center that’s part of the County Public Safety Building, and those could have remained, Mascarenas said.
“The county did offer to continue to lease the dispatch area to us, but we are looking to move them back to Troop Headquarters in Ray Brook in the next six months to avoid this type of situation in the future,” Davison said. “We have not yet located another space within or out of the SP Lewis patrol area. It is expected to cost several hundred thousand dollars to move BCOMM to Ray Brook and obviously much more than that for a new location for SP Lewis.”
All calls for emergency services like police, fire and ambulance in Essex County come into the Lewis 911 center, which is a designated primary Public Safety Answering Point, and county dispatchers will route calls for State Police to Ray Brook after the changeover.
“In terms of timelines, I am trying to work with them (State Police) on making the transition as easy as possible,” Mascarenas said.