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Town Board seeks to sell Colecraft building

The Lancaster Town Board is seeking to sell off the former Colecraft building, a move that would conclude a nine-year saga marked by acrimony and bitter criticism of town officials.

The Town Board bought the aging commercial building for $1.6 million in 2003 with the intention of converting the structure into a police headquarters.

That never happened, and today Lancaster is building a new police and courts complex at another site. With the Colecraft facility used primarily for storage, town officials want to recoup their investment in the building and get the property back on the tax rolls.

"I'm going to do what I said in the campaign -- I want that building sold," said Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli, who took office in January.

The Town Board does need to decide what to do with the equipment currently stored in the Colecraft building.

Board members plan to hire a real estate broker to represent the town in the sale, and they say they are optimistic the town will recoup most of its investment in the underused facility.

"Commercially, I think it's an attractive piece of property," said Councilman Mark S. Aquino. "We're not going to give it away."

Proponents of the purchase said the massive building and 8-acre site offered enough space for police, the Town Court and a shooting range. Lancaster bought the building for $1.6 million and planned to spend up to $8.5 million to renovate it.

The town installed its Detective Bureau there and begin storing equipment and vehicles from several town departments in the building but never began the conversion project.

By late last decade, town officials say, changes in building codes made reusing the building cost-prohibitive.

In 2011, the Town Board voted to borrow $10 million to construct a law enforcement complex next to its Pavement Road Police Headquarters.

At last Monday's Town Board work session, board members voiced support for selling the building.

First, the town needs to retain a firm to handle the sale, Fudoli said, and arrange for an appraisal of the property.

The town also would need to inventory the equipment kept in the building and determine where to move those items.

Lancaster doesn't have excess storage space, so the town likely would need to construct another building, such as a pole barn, said Terrence D. McCracken, general crew chief in the town's Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry.

McCracken said he believes the facility will generate interest from small manufacturers.

"It's a pretty decent building that would make a nice home for some business," he said.

Any sale would have to be coordinated with the opening of the new Police Headquarters building, so that the detectives aren't evicted with nowhere else to go.

Town records show Lancaster borrowed $1.93 million to cover the purchase price for the property -- $1.63 million -- and additional expenses. The town has paid off $735,000 in principal and $464,000 in interest, and still owes $1.2 million in principal and $303,000 in interest.