Thursday, December 27, 2012
KINGSTON, N.Y. — The governor’s office has awarded $1.5 million to Ulster County through the Empire State Development program to help convert Sophie Finn Elementary School in Kingston into an Ulster County Community College satellite campus.
The grant is among $738 million in statewide economic development funding announced last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Ulster County Executive Michael Hein said Wednesday that although the county applied for $1.89 million, the smaller state award does not put the county behind in its fundraising efforts because the governor’s office has “given us assurances that they will help us make up the difference through other funding sources.”
Sophie Finn is one of three elementary buildings in the Kingston school district that will close in June 2013 as part of district Superintendent Paul Padalino’s reconfiguration plan. Hein has been working with state, school district and city of Kingston officials to turn the Mary’s Avenue building into a UCCC campus.
Hein’s plan, which he has dubbed STRIVE (Shared Taxpayer Relief through Innovative Visions in Education), aims to move the UCCC operation at the Business Resource Center in the town of Ulster to the Sophie Finn building, which is behind Kingston High School and across the street from Benedictine Hospital, and use the Business Resource Center spot as a health and human services hub for the county.
Hein’s office has estimated the cost of retrofitting Sophie Finn for college use, including moving expenses, will be $4.46 million, and he has said the project will come at no cost to local property taxpayers.
Hein said the State University of New York capital fund has pledged to pay for half of the construction costs, and the Dyson Foundation is contributing $500,000 to the project. (All community colleges in New York are part of the SUNY system.)
Another possible source of state funding is the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Hein said on Wednesday.
Chris White, the county’s deputy director of planning, said the amount requested in an application for NYSERDA funding would depend on the recommendations of CSArch, the architectural consultant that will begin studying Sophie Finn within the next few weeks to provide a comprehensive evaluation of what it will cost to retrofit the elementary school.
White said the study will take 45 days and probably will be complete by the end of February.
Hein said county officials are emphasizing energy efficiency in the conversion as a way to cut costs and minimize the college’s carbon footprint.
Hein, who recently became president of the New York State County Executives Association, said he presented his plan to the organization during a meeting last month in Syracuse.
Hein said the project is generating enthusiasm around the state as county leaders try to work with schools and municipalities to think “beyond our typical, traditional role” to make improvements.
Citing greater proximity and accessibility to college for Midtown Kingston residents and efforts to create an “educational corridor” in Kingston, Hein said: “I’m excited about what this means for the youth of Ulster County.”