Few issues have divided the community of Keeseville lately like the village board's recent decision to close the Keeseville Civic Center. Whatever your feelings on how the building should be used, it's easy to understand why so many people are less than satisfied with the board's decision.
On one hand, I have to applaud the decision. Clearly the aging, inefficient building creates an unnecessary burden on taxpayers to heat and maintain. To continue its use under current arrangements is just not sustainable, and something has to change to conserve both the building and the financial resources of the village.
The presence of the village offices in the civic center has made the building ineligible for many grants that could have at least prevented it from falling into such disrepair. In the hands of some non-governmental agency, the building could potentially be better cared-for and receive more use, becoming even more of a boon to the community.
It makes a lot of sense for the village to get itself out from under the burden of the Keeseville Civic Center. What doesn't make a lot of sense, however, is to do it without a plan.
It's true closing the building this fall will save the village the thousands of dollars needed to heat it during the winter, but to simply close the building does little to ensure that it will not become an abandoned, disintegrating eyesore. Instead, it could likely suffer the same fate as the former Willsboro Central School building, which steadily deteriorated as it sat vacant for eight years before luckily being purchased by a developer at a nominal price.
Mayor Meegan Rock and the two village trustees who supported the civic center closure have no plan, at least not one they've discussed in public, that includes putting the building in the hands of an entity that will see that it's used, cared for, and maybe even put back on the tax rolls.
Neither have they given much thought to the fate of the other organizations that have relied on the Keeseville Civic Center for so many years. It seems to me the village should have some responsibility to them, especially the Anderson Falls Heritage Society, which has put together an invaluable collection of Keeseville's history. Surely the village could have worked collaboratively with these groups to develop a plan for their future.
Allowing the village to continue to own and operate the Keeseville Civic Center may be futile, but the decision to close it this fall seems ill conceived at best.
Matt Bosley is the editor for The Valley News. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.