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Multiple suggestions for future Town Hall rental use

AMENIA — The Town Board is mulling over renting out space of its new, expansive Town Hall, touching base with local business owners and entrepreneurs interested in the space while trying to set reasonable rental rates to offset the higher cost of occupying the building.The catalyst for the discussion at the March 10 meeting was a letter from a resident in Amenia making inquiries into possibly renting out the Town Hall’s auditorium or gymnasium to hold private concerts or shows.The auditorium is currently not in use, as it has not been brought up to code. The auditorium is part of the last part of the scope of work that was developed to facilitate the move into the new Town Hall, which was formerly an elementary school building. The gymnasium has been opened and is currently being rented out for use by, among other entities, a Zumba exercise class and a local farmers market.Upon prior request, Councilwoman Darlene Riemer had looked into reasonable rental rates for different parts in the building. In addition to the auditorium and gymnasium, there are several rooms on the second floor of the building that are not occupied by Town Hall. Some are reserved for use by the Webutuck Central School District (that agreement was made at the time of the district selling the building to the town for $1), although a period of several month’s notice would be required before the school would be able to use the rooms. Under those stipulations, the Town Board has discussed on several occasions renting out those rooms as art galleries or other temporary businesses that could relocate if the school gave notice of its intent to occupy those rooms down the road.Riemer said she had been advised that the square footage rental rates could range from $22 to $28 per square foot per year. One of the rooms on the top floor is 651 square feet, she continued, which would mean that the town could see a yearly income of nearly $16,500 (about $1,350 per month) even if it charged a middle-of-the-road rental rate.“Renting three rooms could bring us $48,000 per year,” she pointed out.Since the rooms on the second floor and the auditorium would need to be renovated before being rented, it has also been discussed that renters could barter the first month’s rent for in-kind services and renovations. The board has asked Attorney to the Town Michael Hayes to look into the legality of such an arrangement.In relation to the inquiry about the auditorium, the Town Board wondered whether the resident was interested in long-term accommodations, and Councilwoman Vicki Doyle pointed out the entire auditorium could be rented on a monthly or even yearly basis. She said the space was close to 5,000 square feet and ticket revenue for events held there could make it a profitable venture for both the town and the renter.The Town Board decided to follow up with the inquiry by asking for more details. Riemer said that the building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing would have to be assessed, as “you can’t plug in two coffeepots at the same time in certain rooms.” It is believed that the auditorium is not currently rigged to handle the electrical needs of a full-scale arts production.But renting the room as a whole could mean less hassle for the Town Board, because as Riemer pointed out, “We don’t know how any of those productions would operate, and I don’t think the town wants to be in the entertainment business.”

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