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Homeless group may acquire Army Reserve building

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The Watertown City School District’s nearly three-year pursuit of a vacant federal building may have been in vain.

Because a group that cares for the homeless has recently expressed interest in the U.S. Army Reserve Center at 500 S. Massey St., federal law dictates that it take priority in the acquisition.

“Our application has been put on hold,” said district Superintendent Terry N. Fralick. “We’re very disappointed, obviously. We felt everything had been going well. We thought we would, perhaps this fall, have been able to acquire it.”

Mr. Fralick was informed the homeless-care group has until a date in September to file the request before the school district again is at the top of the list to acquire the building.

When a federal building is vacated, there is an order that interested groups must follow. The property would be available first to an interested federal agency, and then to an agency that deals with homeless people. The school district was third on the list.

Mr. Fralick was not aware of who represents the homeless-care group that had made the request. Points North Housing Coalition co-chairwoman Erika F. Flint said she was not made aware of the request, either. She said the coalition, in Black River, normally meets with local homeless-care groups on a quarterly basis and that it may have been requested independently.

While the school district has been pursuing the building the longest, it isn’t the only entity that has been interested in the building. Assisted Living Corp. considered it for an assisted-living facility. Additionally, the Watertown Police Department also considered relocating there from the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building.

District board members and Mr. Fralick toured the building in early 2011 and with the help of Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, were put in touch with officials from the Pentagon about expanding into the center. Last September, the district was waiting for the results of a radiological study of the building to make sure it was safe to use.

Mr. Fralick was hoping to use the building to house the maintenance department and hold adult evening classes and alternative education programs.

“It would be an ideal place to house a Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program,” he said in a previous interview.

The district has been interested in a JROTC program for several years.

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