By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO February 23, 2001 On Thursday, February 15, the Sullivan County Legislature held a special meeting of the Department of Public Works Committee to discuss the proposed visitors center.
The Welcome Center has been discussed since 1997, and the purpose of the meeting was to try to narrow down the site location. New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) Planning and Program Management Director of Region 9 David Ligeikis, DOT Planning and Program Management Civil Engineer II from Region 9 John Pioch, and Sullivan County Engineering Supervisor (DPW) Robert Trotta were there to answer questions about the project.
It was suggested that the four proposed sites be narrowed down to two. Site A would be in the Town of Mamakating between Exits 111 (Wolf Lake) and 112 (Mountaindale/Wurtsboro Hills) on Route 17 West. Site D is also in Mamakating but would be near Exit 114 (Ellenville) on 17 West by Horton Road on the Shawangunk Ridge. To officials involved, these seemed like the best choices.
Both sites would serve westbound traffic coming from Orange County and the NYC metro area. Both would include rest areas and would thus fill the state's mandate for rest areas along the highway.
Site A would be the more conventional rest stop, with entrance and exit ramps. It would have parking and feature a main building. Total estimated cost would run about $4,471,000, said officials.
Site D, overlooking the Bashakill Valley and the Village of Wurtsboro, would be more akin to a Welcome Center, said officials. It would be larger, see more traffic and be more expensive than a conventional rest stop, costing about $5,798,000.
No matter which site is chosen, a great deal of funding has already been set aside. The project is being done in conjunction with the county and the NYSDOT Regions 8 and 9. Each region has $2,000,000 earmarked for the project. The county also has a grant for another $500,000, adding up to a total of $4.5 million. Any extra money needed for the project would be provided by the county.
"The Welcome Center is a partnership," Ligeikis stated. "We want this to be a showpiece."
One legislator disagreed.
"I think we should ask, What do families do?" Legislator Jodi Goodman said. "With my family, we are anxious to get where we are going. People have limited time. Site A would work better."
The Welcome Center would be a part of the state's goal to have more rest areas throughout the New York, responded Ligeikis.
The approximate hour-and-a-half discussion focused on such issues as traffic, accessibility, risk of accidents, and visibility. What was decided in the end is that the county wants a Welcome Center, not just a rest area.
No concrete decisions were made at the meeting. It will be discussed again at the next DPW Committee meeting on Thursday, March 1 at 1 p.m. Committee Chair Rodney Gaebel stated that Sullivan County Visitors Association President and CEO Roberta Byron-Lockwood would be present also.