Gullo wants to recycle building as New Windsor's municipal heart

December 08, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

New Windsor Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. has big plans for the soon-to-be vacant New Windsor Middle School building -- providing the town gets the chance to use it.

If he gets his way, the 41,630-square-foot building will be transformed into the town's main attraction, complete with a library, municipal offices, post office and pharmacy.

"The middle school would be ideal for a community center, not in the sense of a place for social events, but as a center of the community," Mr. Gullo said.

But as construction crews pave roads and erect walls for the new middle school, county and school officials are also weighing uses for the old building, scheduled to be vacated in September 1995.

"There has been a lot of talk about it," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "I'm sure there's going to be some productive use for the building because it is a good solid structure.

"The town would like to have it, but it currently belongs to the school board," he continued. "Depending on how they work things out with the state Board of Education, they may give it back to the county."

Mr. Gullo said his idea for using the old building stems from the town's need to stimulate economic development while promoting a comfortable community atmosphere.

"We realize to promote community, we need a central area, somewhere you can go and see everyone walking down the street, but we don't have that," Mr. Gullo said. "Our businesses are too spread out for that. You don't get that sense of community feeling when you walk down our street.

"All the other towns in the county want to revitalize their main street, but we can't. We have 100 percent occupancy," Mr. Gullo said. "This would be our way of solving our problems and stimulating growth."

The mayor's preliminary plan provides answers for some of the ** town's most troubling questions.

It includes provisions for a senior center because "seniors here -- are currently shuttling between the two churches for events," he said.

The school would be ideal for a youth center because "this place was built for kids. It already has a gymnasium and it is indoors so we could set up Ping-Pong tables."

If municipal offices were in the building, a meeting room large enough for more than 40 people could be established. The town would more easily meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirement to have its offices accessible to the disabled by 1995, he said.

The fire company could relocate to the building and have room for its meetings and banquets. And a post office in that building would be more centrally located.

A library branch could be set up in the building as well, possibly drawing people from various shops -- space rented by the town to retailers to pay for the building's maintenance -- that would give people an alternative to several trips in town, Mr. Gullo said.

"To create something like this common area with a pharmacy or maybe a sandwich shop would be ideal for the people of New Windsor," he said.

The county Planning Commission engaged in an impromptu discussion Monday about the building during a capital improvements budget workshop, said David Duree, a Planning Commission member.

When the commissioners began to talk about the purchase of a modular building for the proposed library in the northwest section of the county, Mr. Duree, who had talked with Mr. Gullo about his ideas, said he brought up the old school building as a possible location.

"I can't see what the county would possibly want to centrally locate there," Mr. Duree said, dismissing the possibility that the town would not have the opportunity to use the building. "Certainly the town and county would want to work together in everyone's best interest."

The county school board has no plans for the building except during the first 18 months after the new school's opening.

"What we're hoping to do, what would help us out, is to bring the elementary students from Elmer Wolfe school to the building to utilize it for about a year and a half while their building is being renovated," said Dr. Lester Surber, director of school facilities. "At that point, we could then transfer the students back to the renovated Elmer Wolfe Elementary School building."

Mr. Dell said the commissioners had discussed some of Mr. Gullo's ideas with the mayor and council last week during a meeting.

He said he believes that if the county were to gain possession of the building, an agreement could be reached with the town.

"I think that the county has been fairly generous in most situations like this in the past," Mr. Dell said. "There can be some kind of trade-off that will be mutually beneficial to both the town and the county."

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