LEWIS — State Police are moving Troop B Dispatch Center and District 3 headquarters out of the Essex County Public Safety Building in Lewis so the county can use the space.
The state police’s 10-year lease expired in 2018 and the police and county have not been able to negotiate a new agreement since.
Police will now vacate the Public Safety Building for new locations over the next few months.
State Police Troop B radio transmissions, called BCOMM, have been consolidated from Ray Brook Troop B headquarters and Plattsburgh Zone 1 and Canton Zone 2 stations to the Public Safety Building, and will likely now be consolidated at Ray Brook, Troop B commander Maj. Brent Davison said.
Troop B Zone 3’s 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 moved again.
“The New York State Police were in the process of negotiating a new lease with Essex County and reached a verbal agreement,” Davison said via email. “We offered to pay the county the amount they requested because our desire was to stay in the part of the building that was designed for us.”
The rent was $144,000 per year, or $12,000 per month, and the county was initially asking for another $5,000 per month, bringing it to $204,000 per year.
“When writing the agreement, the county told us we needed to vacate by Nov. 15 because they needed space for county workers,” Davison said. “The time frame in which we have to move out may change, giving us more time to find another location.”
Essex County Sheriff Michael Mascarenhas said the state police have about 12,000 square feet of space in the Public Safety Building for their district headquarters.
“Since 2018, the State Police has been paying monthly at the original lease rate,” he said via email. “This rate is well below fair market value. As costs continue to rise, the amount Essex County taxpayers have to contribute has increased dramatically to keep them in that space.”
Mascarenhas said the province then faced a space crisis.
“Essex County and the New York State Police were unable to agree on an amount that would ease the financial burden on Essex County taxpayers,” he said. “In addition to these economic realities, during the final months of negotiations, Essex County encountered serious and unexpected space issues that placed the county in the difficult position of having to use space currently occupied by the State Police for county offices and other purposes.”
The county must remove the modular building that the county elections board uses for storage and the old jail building that was built in the late 1800s.
“We currently lease space in two different locations in Elizabethtown Village,” Mascarenhas said. “We also have the old jail, which cannot be reused, because the jail cells are the same structure that keeps that building upright. Essex County also has a Pod which is located right behind the old jail. The pod was used to house inmates after the Essex County Jail was convicted The Pod currently houses our voting machines. These machines must be kept in a climate controlled and accessible environment for maintenance.
The county has $7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding that it must exhaust by the end of 2024.
“As part of the ARPA plan, the county intends to use a portion of these funds to remove the old jail facility,” the county manager said. “To complete the removal of the old jail, we must also remove the property that houses our voting machines. With no place to store those machines, the old jail cannot be removed. Returning these funds would require the county to use local dollars to remove the old jail and increase the burden on payers Local taxes.
The county could lease, buy or build additional space, but constructing an 11,000-square-foot building for the county is estimated at $6 million, Mascarenhas said.
“The fourth option is that we can use the space that we have that is currently occupied by the state police,” he said. “Over time, we can bring our staff back to the Essex County facility and meet our storage needs for the election. We can do this without having to build, lease, or purchase additional space, and at no significant cost to taxpayers. While we value and respect our relationship with the New York State Police, circumstances have forced us to make this difficult decision.”
State Police have several dispatch sites at the Essex County Enhanced 911 Center that is part of the county Public Safety Building, and those sites could have remained, Mascarenhas said.
“The county has offered to continue leasing the dispatch area to us, but we are looking to move them back to the troop headquarters in Rye Brook in the next six months to avoid this type of situation in the future,” Davison said. “We have not yet identified another location within or outside of SP Lewis’s patrol area. Relocating BCOMM to Ray Brook is expected to cost several hundred thousand dollars, and it would obviously cost much more to move a new location for SP Lewis.”
All calls for emergency services such as police, fire and ambulances in Essex County arrive at the Lewis 911 Center, a primary answering point for public safety, and county dispatchers will route State Police calls to Ray Brock after the change.
“As far as timelines, I try to work with them (state police) to make the transition as easy as possible,” Mascarenhas said.