FORT COVINGTON –– Town Board members could soon have a new place to meet.
At Monday night’s Town Board meeting, Town Historian Victor Latreille came before the board to talk about using space at the newer part of St. Mary’s School, which located next to St. Mary’s Catholic Church, for town meetings.
“It has not been a school for years, it is just a parish office,” said Latreille.
Latreille said church leaders approached him about the idea and while the specifics of it have not been worked out, he said the town would purchase the building and still allow the church to use part of it.
“The idea was is that they have a school here and they use it as parish offices,” said Latreille. “The Town Board would like to have a new facility to hold their meetings, and the building is plenty big enough for everyone, so that is the thought that if the town purchased the building and allowed them to use part of it for their business, then it would be a benefit for everyone involved,” he said.
The building could also house the town justice court, which is currently housed in the existing town hall, Latreille added.
“It would be a good deal for the town to have the new part as the justice court,” said Latreille. “It could also be a place for town functions and the old school part would still be used for St. Mary’s business.”
Several board members liked the idea and agreed to attend an initial meeting to hear more about the proposal.
Many say part of the problem with the current town hall is a lack of off-street parking and access to the meeting and court area, which are not handicapped accessible. The room is accessible only via staircases or a steep driveway, which can be treacherous for anyone to navigate in the winter.
“The big thing with this is there is a lot of parking and for handicapped people there is not all kinds of ramps,” said Latreille. “The good thing with the school is that it is all ground level.”
With ample parking, Latreille said, the building can used for other things besides meetings.
“It is a big enough building to have dances or community events, suppers –– there is a full kitchen and it is a nice building,” said Latreille.
Latreille said he has seen other towns participate in similar arrangements that have worked out well. Such an arrangement in Fort Covington would not hurt the town but help everyone, he said.
In addition to proving a better space for meetings and community events, Latreille said the funding for the project would help to keep the church doors open for a little longer.
“We are getting less and less people attending church, so any way we can help with the costs of operating it would be a benefit to the church and the entire community,” said Latreille.
Officials with St. Mary’s Church did not return telephone calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
Board members said using the school space was discussed about a year ago but the project never got off the ground. Several board members said that this time around they are hoping for a different result.
“This would be great for the town, but it is all up to the Town Board,” said Latreille.