By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Legislators continued to wait on the resolution to allow the Sullivan County Funding Corporation (SCFC) to conclude negotiations with Chancellor-Livingston to redevelop the former Apollo Mall in Monticello.
“I felt uncomfortable with the resolution in the way it came forth to the committee,” Legislator Cindy Gieger explained to the public Thursday, adding that she and other legislators are unfamiliar with the SCFC’s creation and operation. “... There are a lot of unanswered questions.”
Several public speakers agreed, with concerns focusing on the SCFC and a proposal to site a YMCA next door.
Rock Hill’s Dave Colavito, for example, discovered that the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) which transferred the Apollo dealings to the SCFC purportedly in part because the IDA couldn’t deal with retail ventures is not prohibited from handling retail proposals after all.
The YMCA’s plan to redevelop the adjacent theater also engendered opposition from residents who feel the Apollo’s resurrection should be dedicated solely to for-profit, tax-generating purposes.
“I don’t think a nonprofit should be on a location that’s in direct competition with a local business,” argued Monticello resident Jim Culligan, referring to charges that the YMCA will hurt local gyms like the Fitness Factory.
Culligan also worried that the Y might be getting a "sweetheart deal."
“We’re just wondering why the YMCA is the nonprofit that seems to get all these breaks?” he questioned, referring also to the Y’s participation in Thompson’s summer camp and development of a nature preserve in Rock Hill.
While cautioning legislators not to appear to be standing in the way of economic development, Jeffersonville resident and former Legislator David Sager shared Culligan’s concerns.
“It’s so not arms-length, it’s not funny,” he remarked of the Apollo-YMCA deal. “... I think you have to watch who the players behind the scenes are.”
He promised to investigate and report on his findings.
Also worrying Legislator Cora Edwards was what happens to a $3.7 million bond the county took out on the portion of the property once planned to be the expansion site of the nearby landfill.
Treasurer Ira Cohen said the bond repayment remains the responsibility of the county, but he didn’t yet know the ramifications of paying off a bond on property no longer being used for the purpose for which it was bonded and possibly eventually being under private, for-profit ownership.
The resolution itself caused concern, too, as it had appeared unbidden on legislators’ desks the week before, the day of the ultimately tabled vote.
“We’ve got to change this culture,” urged Grahamsville resident Ken Walter.
Walter, however, had a potential solution for the YMCA issue: rent the space to the Y so the property itself stays on the tax rolls.
“We’ve got a lot of storefront churches that rent space,” he pointed out.
The matter is expected to be taken up at the next Executive Committee meeting, currently scheduled for Thursday, March 8 at 2 p.m. at the Government Center in Monticello.