In a few hours county executive Pat Ryan will make a “major housing announcement” at RUPCO headquarters in Kingston.
Ryan will announce that the county plans to acquire the vacant Ramada Inn on Rt. 28 just west of the traffic circle and, in conjunction with RUPCO and with federal funding, convert it into permanent living quarters with emergency services for county homeless.
RUPCO CEO Kevin O’Connor pitched the county legislature to include “nine or ten million” dollars in the county’s annual community services grant with the feds at Tuesday’s regular meeting of lawmakers.
O’Connor’s agency has built hundreds of units for working class poor and seniors over the years. This would be the county’s first facility for the homeless. “The need is dire,” he told legislators.
Ryan has told legislators he considers the Ramada project a “top priority.” The facility will be administered by Family of Woodstock and the local branch of Catholic Charities.
O’Connor was somewhat vague on details in his 10-minute address to legislators, speaking only to “100 units in a nearby obsolete motel.” Pressed after the meeting by this reporter, he revealed that the Ramada, built almost 50 years ago, was the target.
Town of Ulster supervisor Jim Quigley was not at the legislature meeting, but nothing moves in the town without the Big Fellow’s say-so. Interviewed the next day the spoke of being part of the months-long secret planning process that led up to Ryan’s press conference.
Asked what the town would reap from this project, there being few homeless people in Ulster, Quigley replied, “About $2 million in federal funding to provide sewer and water hookups for that side of Rt. 28.” In other words, the Republican supervisor and the Democratic executive cut a deal.
“I can be transactional,” Quigley said.
Ryan may or may not mention this aspect of the deal when he takes the podium this afternoon, but Quigley is keenly aware that replacing a tax-generating property like the Ramada with a tax-exempt public facility will impact his town’s bottom line.
RUPCO in all its projects has been something of a good neighbor in regard to property taxes. They don’t request tax relief via Pilots (Payments In Lieu of Taxes) but instead voluntarily pay taxes to the various taxing authorities where their projects are located, albeit less than full taxation.
In some cases, RUPCO pays more than some private sector developers with projects of similar scope, Quigley said.
County homeless, presently housed in catch-as-catch-can shelters and “welfare motels,” shouldn’t expect the Ramada site to be available anytime soon. Various town agencies in Ulster will need to pass on the proposal, planning on the town and county levels, zoning, if necessary, in the town, before construction/renovation can commence.
Footnote: “I was in high school at the time,” Quigley said, “but my mother (former realtor Helen Quigley) negotiated the real estate deal that brought Ramada to that site in 1972. Small world.”