Crickets, bird chirps will end when Port Washington North Village Hall moves

Port Washington North Mayor Bob Weitzner stands outside Port Washington North Mayor Bob Weitzner stands outside the town's village hall. (Nov. 21, 2013) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

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The sound of crickets sometimes fills the room at the Port Washington North Village Hall -- and it's not because the mayor's jokes are falling flat.

The crickets are escapees from the pet store next door to village hall, which itself has been tucked into two cramped rooms in the corner of a shopping center for nearly 10 years.

But the less-than-ideal setup is set to change next year. Mayor Bob Weitzner said the village plans to move its headquarters around the corner to a space about double the size.

"We would hear birds chirping while we were conducting our meetings," Weitzner said. "The crickets from the lizards would be coming into our office. It was bizarre."

The current village hall, which doubles as the village court, is lined with filing cabinets, and the two rooms offer little privacy for prosecutors' negotiations or other village business, Weitzner said.

The new location, at 1 Pleasant Ave., offers roughly twice the space for about twice the rent.

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Weitzner said the building department would get its own offices, while the board room would be expanded and the filing system upgraded.

Utilities would be included in the rent. The lease hasn't been signed yet, but Weitzner said he's hoping the village can move into the new space in January.

"It's maybe $2,000 more a month for twice the space and a much better working environment, and a better feel for our residents," he said. "I'm excited about it."

He said the village budget could accommodate the extra rent -- it has $500,000 in a village hall contingency fund, and the village has no outstanding bonds.

"It's not going to rely on raising taxes or having to dip into reserves," Weitzner said.

Resident Hank Ratner said he was fine with the move. "I'm not embarrassed by having village hall in a storefront," he said. "But again, a move to a bigger headquarters -- it'll be more convenient and more space. I have no problem with it."

As unusual as the current village hall is, it's not the oddest location in the village's 81-year history.

The first village hall was housed in a barn owned by the village's first mayor, Joseph Cocks. It later moved to the village clerk's house, then to a shopping center, a studio apartment, a bowling alley and a bank building, before ending up at its current location, according to the current village clerk Palma Torrisi.

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In 1968, voters rejected a bond measure to build a permanent village hall, and similar efforts have been stymied since.

"This has been gnawing at me for years," said Weitzner, who is serving his sixth term and has glanced at other village's headquarters with envy. "When I see what Sands Point did and what Flower Hill did, it kills me. It absolutely kills me."

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