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Morristown inches ahead with plans to renovate old parish center for new town hall

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MORRISTOWN - The town of Morristown is cautiously moving forward with plans to purchase and renovate the St. John’s Parish Center at 500 Morris St. to use as a new town hall.

Town Supervisor Frank L. Putman said they haven’t talked pricing with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg, which owns the building, but that the first step for the town will be to determine if the building is suitable for its needs.

The Rev. Jay W. Seymour, pastor of St. John’s, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Rev. Mr. Seymour said previously that the church is considering buying the former United Methodist Church building at 502 Gouverneur St. to use as a new parish center. He said the church would not purchase the new building without putting the current one up for sale.

The former United Methodist Church is being sold for $130,100.

Mr. Putman said the town is talking with engineer Karl O. Bender, Gouverneur, to see how much it would cost to overhaul the parish center to make it suitable for use as a town hall. Mr. Putman said that Mr. Bender will do a walk-through of the building in the coming weeks to determine how much an engineering study would cost.

“We haven’t actually gotten anything concrete,” Mr. Putman said of the project.

Mr. Putman said a number of hurdles would need to be overcome before a purchase could be completed.

“There’s not been any talk of a price,” he said. “We’re kind of feeling our way along. You don’t need a price if you determine that the cost of renovation to make it usable is so high that you don’t even want to entertain it any further.”

In particular, Mr. Putman said, Morristown Code Enforcement Officer Christopher J. Sherwin believes there may be asbestos in the floor tiles of the building, an issue that could greatly increase the cost of renovation.

“There is a murmur of a mold problem. These are all the swirling things that one would want to consider,” Mr. Putman said.

Several years ago, Mr. Putman said, the town was considering building a brand new town hall building to replace the aging, converted residential dwelling it currently occupies.

But with construction estimated “in the millions” Mr. Putman said, “It’s not something that we would take on because it’s not something that we would want to saddle the taxpayers with.”

The current town hall, 604 Main St., has a number of problems that make it difficult for the town to operate, Mr. Putman said.

The two-story structure is not fully handicapped-accessible, and Mr. Putman said that court proceedings can often be crowded due to the limited space.

“It is an extremely old house,” he said of the building.

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