Editor's note: This article is part of an occasional series looking at what happened to local projects and initiatives that were undertaken with great expectations. Email email@example.com with your suggestions for followup stories.
MAYVILLE - A project that started out as an alternative to building a new town of Chautauqua Administration Building has turned into a benefit for all involved.
The project started in 2004 and the plan came from Sid Compton, former town of Chautauqua supervisor. Compton's idea was to turn the old Mayville School, which was sitting empty on top of the hill at 2 Academy St., into the town administration building and a new location for the county's Family Court facility. Also, Compton knew there would be space left to rent or lease to local businesses to generate additional revenue.
The entrance to the town of Chautauqua administration offices, which is located in the old Mayville School.
P-J photos by Dennis Phillips
Compton's work for the town started before being elected supervisor. He led voters in a public referendum to turn down a plan to spend $2.4 million on a new town hall. After the public referendum, Compton was voted into office and started work on how to turn the old school into a useful building for the town, county and other groups.
''I knew there was a lot of potential here,'' Compton said to The Post-Journal in a recent interview. ''I knew it would work. I knew there were businesses looking for a place to rent.''
Compton was right. The building now is completely full of tenants and government entities. In 2006, the town moved its offices into the former Mayville Central School. Along with town offices, the building is home to the county Family Court, Mental Health and Tapestry and Emergency Services; Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corporation; Habitat for Humanity; CSEA union; Chautauqua Transportation Services; Mayville Tremaine Insurance; and Monroe Title and Young Title agencies.
The project started in 2004 to renovate the old Mayville School
The project was completed in 2006
43-acres including the building, parking land and land around the building
Family Court facility 24,000 square feet
Nine months to renovate the building
Town paid $1.4 million for the old school
County put 3.5 million into building to renovate the Family Court facility
The town spent around $750,000 in renovations
State ordered county to expand court facilities or face a penalty of $12 million held back in revenue
Town expects to make about $113,000 in rent this year
First year started renting in 2008, made about $66,000
25 percent of the building is considered private property, which is taxable
Organizations Located At The Former Mayville School
Chautauqua Town offices, county Family Court, Mental Health and Tapestry and Emergency Services; Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation and Improvement Corporation; Habitat for Humanity; CSEA union; Chautauqua Transportation Services; Mayville Tremaine Insurance; Monroe Title and Young Title agencies.
Donald Emhardt, Chautauqua supervisor, said the town will make about $113,000 in rent, which is increasing each year.
He said in 2008, the first year the town started generating money from leasing the building to tenants, the town made $66,000 in rent.
''It has been a steady increase each year since we started,'' he said.
The building, which is 75 percent government-occupied, also makes tax revenue from the 25 percent of the building, which is considered private property.
The building, which has a 10-year bond, will be paid off by 2014. According to The Post-Journal article from December 2004, the town purchased the building for $1.4 million and was projected to spend about $750,000 on renovations.
''Once it is paid for, it is free money from the leases and rent,'' Compton said. ''The town gets to use that money. The building will one day pay for itself.''
Emhardt, who was a town councilman when the project started in 2004 and was completed in 2006, said the building has developed the way Compton and everyone involved envisioned.
''It has turned out really well for us,'' he said. ''The building is completely filled. I have people that keep requesting space, which we have none. Everybody has worked well together. There have been little things that have happened, but, for the most part, it has been great.''
Emhardt said the structure of the building has held up, which was in question by county legislators when the project was first proposed.
''We've had to replace a couple roofs and have had minor maintenance issues, but that is all,''he said.
Compton said when the project was first being developed, he combed through every inch of the building to make sure it was structurally sound.
''There were going to be no surprises. I went everywhere in the building to make sure it was stable,'' he said. ''We stayed on budget and got a little more bang for our buck.''
The project was so important to be done right the first time, Compton spent most of his time at the school during the nine-month renovation process.
Compton said he appreciates all the hard work the contractors did, working to make sure the project was completed on budget.
''We had a hand in every decision to save money on the renovation process,'' he said. ''It was going to stay on budget. That was the No. 1 thing for me. Every day I was up here to make sure it was being done right.''
The building also has its own natural gas well that is used to heat the building during the winter. Compton said with the gas well, utility expenses are incredibly low for the building.
FAMILY COURT PROJECT
Another reason the project was important for the town and county residents was the Family Courts facility. At the time, the state was threatening the county with a $12 million penalty by withholding revenue if there was no plan approved for a new courts facility.
Before the Mayville school proposal, the county was making plans to expand the Mayville campus around the Gerace Building to add an additional building.
However, this idea was rejected since it would have reduced the amount of parking spaces available, which was already a problem.
When Compton first proposed the plan to county lawmakers, he said they didn't like the idea. Even though the town was going to give 25 percent of the building to the county for free, Compton said they still didn't like the idea. However, he said that changed after he wrote an article that was printed in The Post-Journal.
''Once the article ran in the paper, saying we were giving away a part of the building, a lot of county minds were changed about the potential of the building,'' he said. ''There was going to be no charge, how could they say 'no'?''
So, Compton and Mark Thomas, then the county executive, made the deal. The county received part of the building for its courts facilities if it pays for its renovations, which costs around $3.5 million. Compton said George Spanos, county Public Facilities director, played an important part in the county's renovations on the 24,000-square-foot Family Court facility.
''He was great to work with,'' Compton said.
FAMILY COURT JUDGE'S TAKE
Family Court Judge Judith Claire said even though her court is not located with the other courts in Mayville, that the new building has been wonderful.
''It has been a great collaboration of agencies and governmental bodies, with the whole building being full now,'' she said. ''We are able to do a quazillion more here than in the past.''
Judge Claire said the previous Family Court facility was a crowded courtroom that was not a safe environment for all involved. For example, she said domestic violence victims would have to stand near the person being accused of the crime. From a safer entrance to a room dedicated for children, the new facility provides more services to those attending court.
''You could see the fear on people's faces,'' she said. ''We have not experienced any of that in this building.''
Judge Claire said when she first heard the proposal to place Family Court in the old school, it was just one more proposal.
''You need to understand, this had been studied (new courts facility) for more than a dozen years. I think this was Proposal M, which made it well over a dozen (different proposals),'' she said. ''At that point, we were all feeling jaded. We weren't convinced that anything would be approved.''
Judge Claire said the more she heard about the proposal, the more logical it seemed.
''I thought it was intelligent and made sense,'' she said. ''I certainly wasn't opposed to it.''
Claire said Family Court being located at the old school is great because of other agencies in the building as well.
''There are a lot of agencies in the building we do a lot of work with, like Mental Health and Tapestry,'' she said. ''It is great to just run over to the other floor and conference if we need to. That helps us.''
Also, parking was always a problem at the previous court facility, but not any longer.
''Now they can just pull right in. There are always spots in the lot,'' she said. ''Before we would have people be an hour late because they couldn't find any place to park.''