The Town of Babylon is gearing up to begin the first year of a planned five-year renovation of its Town Hall Annex, which is housed in a former North Babylon elementary school.
The town recently finished planning for replacement of the building's roof and hopes to begin construction early next year. The repairs are being done in phases so as to not disrupt services at the annex, which houses two town departments and more than a dozen divisions of other departments.
The renovations are the first major investment in the building, which dates to the 1950s. Although the town paid $900,000 to the North Babylon school district for the building in 1987, a clause in the contract maintained the district had the right to take back the building at any time during the next 25 years should the school be needed because of an enrollment increase.
"It didn't make financial sense for the town to invest millions into major repairs for the building," in the past, said town spokesman Kevin Bonner. But as of 2013, the town owns the building outright and wants to make the investment.
The total cost of the renovation is expected to be $8 million to $9 million, he said. So far the town has bonded for $2.4 million: $1.4 million for the roof; $700,000 for heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning; and $300,000 for design and engineering services.
Planning for the renovations has come with some controversy. The town had explored moving some services, including its drug and alcohol division, to a former convent owned by Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst. Residents and officials there protested, but before talks progressed, town officials determined the renovations needed to move offices to the building -- carrying a tab of nearly $750,000 -- were cost-prohibitive.
In June, when word got out that the town planned to consolidate its drug and alcohol operations at a rented building in Amityville with those at the annex, some parents protested, saying the move would endanger children at nearby Phelps Lane Memorial Park, William E. Deluca Jr. Elementary School and Robert Moses Middle School. So the town merged the Amityville operations with the division at the annex over the summer.
Interior work on the annex will begin first with the building's cafeteria, which will be converted into office space for the drug and alcohol division. The space that group occupied will then be renovated and used for another division, allowing for a continuous shift of the 70 to 100 employees in the building.
"It's going to be kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle," said Vinny Piccoli, buildings and grounds manager for the town public works department.
The human services department and its division of senior citizens services will be permanently relocated to another site, 1 Commerce Blvd. in Amityville, a town-owned building.
The annex is open beyond business hours, used for classes and as a meeting spot for various organizations, Piccoli said.
"It's certainly time for the building to get renovated so it can better serve the public," he said.