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State Senate approves Psych Center land transfer

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OGDENSBURG — A plan to spur economic growth and create new jobs by turning over unused land and buildings on the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center campus, 1 Chimney Point Drive, from the state to the city was approved by the state Senate on Friday.

The proposal includes the transfer of 160 acres of unused campus property — including river frontage — to the City of Ogdensburg. The measure was included in the Senate’s version of the new state budget, which passed with bipartisan support.

Passage by the Senate represents a major step forward for the plan, which was developed by state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, in collaboration with the City of Ogdensburg.

“While working to retain patient care and jobs at the Psych Center, many saw the grounds for the first time in a number of years,” Mrs. Ritchie said Friday. “They saw how valuable the land was and decided to focus their efforts to the 100-plus acres that were underutilized and that needed to be turned over the city and put back on the tax rolls for the purpose of economic development.”

Under the plan, the city would take over the waterfront property at Point Airy, a wooded area close to the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority’s industrial park, undeveloped land along Route 37 and the property on which the Ag Energy LP cogeneration plant sits.

Much of the property has been sitting unused for more than 100 years, Mrs. Ritchie said.

The Senate budget also includes new economic development funding that communities like Ogdensburg could access for job creation efforts.

“The money could be used for a study on the property to look at ways to restore some of the buildings on the parcels,” Mrs. Ritchie said. “The co-generation plant is one of the lots there we are looking to have turned over to the city. That could be turned into a biomass facility that will immediately generate a number of jobs.”

City Manager John M. Pinkerton said the Senate’s approval of the bill is “a good first step.”

“Much of the property on Point Airy is prime riverfront property that would be of a higher-end value that could help attract doctors and other professionals and alleviate the strains we have,” Mr. Pinkerton said. “The current taxable property is at 36 percent. We need economic vitality.”

Mrs. Ritchie’s separate legislation to enact the plan was recently introduced in the state Assembly by Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell, D-Theresa. Mrs. Russell said she is optimistic the bill will pass in the Assembly.

“It has been introduced and we’re working to move it through the legislative process as soon as we can,” Mrs. Russell said.

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