Jim King walks through the gym of the former Keeseville Civic Center, which he and a group of residents are looking to renovate and bring back to the community.
A group of citizens has started to lay the groundwork to bring back the Ausable-Keeseville-Chesterfield Civic Center.
The facility, which was formerly the Keeseville High School, has sat vacant since October 2010 without heat.
Now, a group that includes Ausable town councilman Jim King is looking to get heat back into the building as a first step to revitalizing the civic center and bringing it back for the community.
“Getting the heat back on would be a huge lift,” King said. “We need to replace the electric and water and put some new boilers in, but the first goal is to get heat going by this fall. We have to start somewhere. If this building stayed this way, it would just deteriorate more and become a tax burden not just to the village but to the area.”
King said that officials for the organization, which is in the process of becoming a non-profit entity, want to look at ways to bring the venue back.
“I went to school here,” he said. “When the meetings started to discuss what to do with the building after it was vacated, one of the first suggestions was to knock it down. I said, whoa, let’s look at other possibilities first and make that more like our fifth or sixth option.”
King said that another reason to make demolition the last choice was the cost that would be associated with such a project.
“We were quoted that a project to demolish the building would cost over $600,000 when it was first closed down, and I am sure that number would be higher now,” he said. “This would not be a project where people would just come in and have it gone in three or four days.”
King said that while the building is structurally sound, there would need to be a lot of cosmetic work done as two winters without heat led to peeling paint, rises in the wood flooring and leaks in the ceiling.
“There is a lot of feeling out there about what can be done with this place,” he said. “I have gone to other towns where they would do anything to have a resource like this building.”
Eventually, the organizers would like to see the building used in a similar way as the former Au Sable Forks High School.
“Give the folks of Jay a lot of credit; they made a nice civic center out of the high school that is for the use of the people,” King said. “In Jay, they turned the school into the volunteer firehouse. The building is right here and we do not have to build a thing.”
King said that the organization will start looking for grants and funding from different foundations and will also start a fundraising campaign with the help of the Anderson Falls Historical Society.
“The society is putting their name behind us so we can get this pulled off,” King said. “This in no way means that they have a bunch of money that they are putting into this building. They are still seeking their own fundraising, but they wanted to give us a name that can go on the grant applications.”
King is hopeful that the community will donate to the project.
“It will put the community back in here and give them the ownership over this building through their donations,” King said. “The funds will go directly to a bank account and they will help in getting this endeavor pulled off.”
King said that there also is interest from outside businesses and organizations looking to occupy the civic center once it is renovated.
“We have an organization that would like to rent the second floor, and that could cover some of the expenses,” King said. “I have a lot of faith in this community. I choose to be an optimist and not a pessimist.”
Those interested in making a donation to the Ausable-Keeseville-Chesterfield Civic Center Fund can send checks made out to “Anderson Falls Historical Society - Social Center Project” to TD BankNorth, attn. Kim Ryan, 1744 Main St., Keeseville, N.Y., 12944.