Cornell aims to 'buy' headquarters from county, repair it
Story by Dan Hust
LIBERTY October 15, 2013 With no heat, a leaky roof and winter not far away, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Sullivan County’s Liberty headquarters is in desperate need of repair.
On Thursday, CCE officials pitched a solution to county legislators that involves transferring the Gerald J. Skoda Education Center and its 22-acre property from the county to CCE for a dollar.
In exchange, CCE would raise the nearly $1 million needed to complete all the building’s repairs. The title transfer, in fact, would allow CCE to borrow against the value of the 26-year-old headquarters, located along Ferndale-Loomis Road near Sullivan County BOCES’ Rubin-Pollack campus.
CCE Executive Director Greg Sandor indicated that may be the only way to solve the latest struggle in a centennial anniversary year that has also seen staff and budget cuts at the ag-oriented agency.
“We received a very clear message that there is simply no county funding to repair our building at this time,” he wrote in a report to legislators.
“Cornell is willing to step up to the plate and actually raise the money,” he added.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther has already offered $50,000 in state funds if there’s a master plan put in place to make the building more environmentally sustainable, and local fundraising heavyweights Phil Coombe and Gerry Skoda (for whom the building is named) are already deeply involved.
Sandor said the county built the center exclusively for CCE’s use, and if CCE ever disappears, it will return to county ownership.
“CCE is taking the liability (financial and legal) off of the hands of the county,” he argued. “Sidewalks are sinking, parking lots and driveways are in disrepair, plus the repair costs are a huge burden we will take off of the county’s back.”
CCE’s board unanimously approved the plan last week. Now it awaits legislators’ vote, which will happen after a November 7 public hearing on the sale, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at the Government Center in Monticello.