Berne to host county services hub, despite plans for Clarksville school moving forward

— photo from Albany County Executive's Office
A red ribbon day: Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy, right of center, cuts a ribbon with Berne town supervisor Kevin Crosier, left of center, to announce weekly county services provided at the town's senior center.

BERNE — The Albany County executive announced Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that the town of Berne will serve as a hub for county services in the Hilltowns.

Daniel McCoy made the announcement during one of his state-of-the-county addresses at the town’s senior center, which is where the county services will be located.

McCoy told The Enterprise that a county employee will “set up shop” once a week to provide services to Hilltown residents who may find it difficult to travel to downtown Albany, where county departments like those for social services, the elderly, and veterans are located.

Though it is still not finalized, McCoy said it would likely be on Wednesdays when someone like a social worker or county clerk would visit Berne, probably between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

It is something that was already being done, to a lesser extent, in the Hilltowns, said McCoy.

“It is nothing new, but we’re adding more services,” he said.

This past February, Berne town supervisor Kevin Crosier said that there had been attempts before to send a county employee to work part-time at the senior center.

McCoy added that the cost would be minimal because it would be a transfer or services from one location to another.

“I’m just shifting services,” he said. “Instead of someone working at 162 [Washington Avenue — the location of the Department of Social Services], or 112 State Street [the location of the Executive’s office], or mental health, they’re going to work out there for a couple hours for that day.”

Several days earlier, on June 21, the Bethlehem Central School District’s board of education approved in a vote of 4 to 2 a lease-to-purchase agreement for the Albany County Sheriff’s Office to acquire the former Clarksville Elementary School that was closed six years ago. Sheriff Craig Apple has said that the building, which he has leased since 2012 as a hub for his patrol and emergency medical service divisions, could also serve as a satellite office for county services, similar to what is being offered in Berne.

McCoy was dismissive of the building being used as a place to go for things like parole officer visits, saying small-town residents would not want to go somewhere local to conduct more unsavory tasks.

“There really wasn’t adequate room for us,” he added, of the building. McCoy said that there are not enough office spaces available and very few large rooms.

“It really doesn’t justify full time,” he added. “If there’s a true need to be out there five days a week, then I would sit down with the sheriff and look at moving into Clarksville Elementary School full-time...we’re just trying to justify one day a week out there.”

The next step for the sheriff’s office to purchase the building is approval from the county legislature.

Apple said that the legislature understands his office’s efforts and is supportive of the community policing it provides, in an emailed statement. He added that the building would still provide services as a police station and as a location of New Scotland’s town court should it not be used as an additional hub for county services.

Apple told The Enterprise in March that he didn’t need taxpayer money for the county to buy the Clarksville property.

“I would buy the building with asset forfeiture money,” he said, referring to funds gotten from people arrested for crimes.

More Hilltowns News

  • Municipalities have until Dec. 31 to request that the New York State Cannabis Control Board prohibit marijuana dispensaries and consumption sites from establishing themselves within each municipality’s respective borders. So far, only two of the four Hilltowns have initiated public conversation on the matter.

  • The troupe is putting on a rendition of A Christmas Carol that’s staged as a fictional live radio show. The aptly-named play, “A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Show,” was adapted from the Charles Dickens novella by playwright Joe Landry, with music by Kevin Connors.

  • The Berne Town Hall.

    Berne Planning Board member Lawrence Zimmerman resigned in November over frustrations that the town is not following the guidance of its own comprehensive plan. Former town board member Dawn Jordan says that ideology and partisanship got in the way, along with some more proasic — and even healthy — obstacles.

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