ACCORD – With a single sentence, the Town of Rochester abandoned its pursuit of Skate Time 209 as its new town hall/recreation center.
“The Referendum vote scheduled 12/7/21 for the purchase of Skate Time has been cancelled,”the town wrote on its website. Rochester Supervisor Mike Baden confirmed the move in an email, adding that the contract between the town and the owners of Skate Time had also been terminated.
Skate Time owners Steve Apkon and Marcina Hale will now be free to pursue other prospective buyers for the building, which sits on 5.96 acres and reportedly was appraised for $2,125,000. The idea behind the purchase came from Apkon and Hale, who presented the town with an offer for the property. They have publicly stated that their reason for approaching the town, rather than another buyer, was fueled by a desire to keep the building as a community space. The December 7 referendum, if passed, would have allowed the town to pursue a $2,060,000 bond for the purchase.
But an email from Apkon this week rescinded the offer, after it seemed as if the referendum would fail (both Republican and Democratic factions in Rochester had come out against the referendum). On Tuesday the town board unanimously agreed to terminate the deal. While preparation for the referendum (absentee ballots, lawyers’ fees an environmental survey, etc.)cost the town about $6,500, the cost would have been a few thousand dollars higher if the referendum proceeded, according to Baden.
Almost immediately the deal was wrapped in controversy. And many attacks appeared politically motivated, since the supervisor and some town board seats were up for grabs this election season. Councilmember Bea Haugen Depuy, who ran against Baden, said the building would cost millions more than the initial bond. While Baden was upfront that the total costs were unknown, he had mentioned pursuing an additional bond for any required fixes, but not before giving the power to the voters to decide yes or no. There were also several concerns raised about the state of the property. The town had opted to not invest in a full property inspection, citing cost concerns. In a previous interview Baden said that an inspection was going to occur before the sale was finalized, and it could quash the sale if the repairs were too costly. However, the lack of a full inspection may have fueled the rumor mill, as one local opponent to the referendum, losing town board candidate John Dawson, repeatedly blasted social media with claims that the building was in dire shape.
Opponents of the referendum also questioned the owner’s motivation and the assessed value of the property. In a BlueStone Press article, there was even an unsubstantiated claim that a buyer was interested in keeping it as a rink. But according to the owners, that was false.
For now, the fate of Skate Time remains uncertain. It might stay a rink, or it might become any number of commercial enterprises. The town, which still needs a new place to hold government affairs, will have to seek out other sites, buildings, lots, or existing town properties on which to build.
Lisa Reider – Shawangunk Journal