Beacon’s city council voted 5-2 in favor of locating the highway garage on six acres of the former women’s prison. The remaining acreage, approximately 39 acres, is awaiting the release of a Request For Proposal from the State.
Several council members appeared to vote yes based on safety concerns for highway department employees. The current highway garage on Creek Drive is deteriorating badly, with pieces of concrete falling from the ceilings. However, a yes vote by no means guarantees that a new garage will be constructed in a shorter timeframe on the Camp Beacon site. In fact, the original site behind Chemprene, because it has been on the drawing board for 10 years, could very likely have been the quicker route to a completed building.
But the question of worker safety is a canard in this case. As mentioned, it is unclear which site would result in a finished highway facility more quickly. But more importantly, if city workers are at risk today, if the building is in danger of falling on someone’s head, it should be condemned immediately, tomorrow. Space will need to be found elsewhere, or shared with Fishkill temporarily, or whatever it takes, if lives are truly at stake here. Period. Worker safety has nothing to do with where the new garage gets built, or whether to wait 3 more weeks to vote on it after important points were raised. Due mostly to lack of money, this project has been waiting in line for ten years.
The first issue brought to the council’s attention by council member Lee Kyriacou was potential tax revenue loss on the six acres at Camp Beacon. Using rough figures based on large industrial use on Rt. 52, he estimated that over 20 years the City would lose about $1.5 million dollars in revenue by taking that acreage for the garage. This would make it competitive with the Chemprene site, which would cost more than the Camp Beacon site initially, due mainly to lack of nearby sewer and water hookups.
Perhaps more importantly, a large property within the City will now go out for an RFP with a highway garage next to it, potentially limiting the range of responses. Let us recall that the current garage is located right on the Fishkill Creek, something that would not be done today. In fact, the sale of that valuable city property will help pay for the new facilities.
Yes, a new highway garage is urgently needed. But making a decision based on a false premise of worker safety, or dismissing salient points simply because the project is long overdue, is not prudent. We can only wonder how much further along the new garage will be in three weeks’ time.