BRAINARDSVILLE –– An expected vote on the long-debated proposal that the town of Bellmont buy the former St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Owls Head was again derailed Monday after a resident of the northern portion of the town raised questions about how the ongoing operation of the building would be paid for.
Hubert Wilcox asked if running the building would be paid for only by residents of the southern portion of the town, rather than the town as a whole. He noted that residents of the Owls Head/Mountain View area would be the primary beneficiaries if the town were to buy the building and suggested the Town Board create a special taxing district so that only residents of that area would bear the cost.
He also noted that the 223 signers of a petition calling for the purchase appeared to come exclusively from the Owls Head/Mountain View area.
Because of the geography of Bellmont and the large area of state-owned land that is part of the Adirondack Park, travel from the northern portion of the town to the southern portion requires driving in roughly a half-circle and includes a trip to Malone. While Owls Head is only about 10 miles from Brainardsville on a direct path, the drive route is approximately 30 miles.
Supervisor H. Bruce Russell, who has been the driving force behind the church purchase, said Wilcox’ idea should be explored before any final decision was made.
“I think it needs a little exploring,” Russell said.
The delay came even though the major hang-up on a decision seemed to have been resolved.
The Town Board had agreed to have a mold assessment conducted on the building after Town Councilor Wayne Rogers had raised concerns over what he said was a musty smell in the building. That assessment, done by Rockwell Environmental Solutions, found some evidence of mold in the building, but not of a type or amount that would prevent going forward with the purchase, town Planning Committee Chairman John Dalphin told the board.
Dalphin, who has been a strong and vocal proponent of the purchase, said he presented the results of the assessment to two people with doctorate degrees in biology for their interpretations of the findings. Both Ph.D.s –– one of them Dalphin’s nephew –– said the mold could be easily remediated and should not present an obstacle to the purchase, Dalphin said.
A good cleaning and keeping the building –– which has been vacant for roughly 17 years –– heated should eliminate the mold problem, Dalphin said the scientists told him.
Russell said that the cost of fixing the problem could cost only a few hundred dollars, mostly for supplies. The work could be done by volunteers and “volunteers don’t cost a lot,” he said, adding that he was confident many people would step up if it meant the town would buy the building.
After much discussion, Russell said he wanted to postpone the vote yet again in order to look deeper into Wilcox’ suggestion.