Services sought for Hilltowns

CaptionCloseNew ScotlandResidents of rural Albany County wouldn't have to venture into downtown Albany for some county family services under a plan by the sheriff's office to expand its presence near the Hilltowns.Sheriff Craig Apple is hoping to expand...

Services sought for Hilltowns



New Scotland

Residents of rural Albany County wouldn't have to venture into downtown Albany for some county family services under a plan by the sheriff's office to expand its presence near the Hilltowns.

Sheriff Craig Apple is hoping to expand a number of county services to the department's substation in the New Scotland hamlet of Clarksville, including social services, child protective services, mental health and possibly probation. But first, he'd like to purchase the site housing the substation — the old Clarksville Elementary School off Route 443 on Verda Lane.

"I would love to work out a deal to get some family services up there," Apple said. "A lot of the folks in the mountains don't like to go into the city, and we think if we could bring some services to them it could help."

The building is owned by the Bethlehem Central School District, which closed the elementary school in 2011 following years of declining enrollment. The district will hold a community forum at 7 p.m. March 8 at Bethlehem Central High School to discuss the possible sale to the county.

"As a school, Clarksville holds special memories for many people," said Superintendent Jody Monroe in an email to parents. "It has also been successfully and carefully re-purposed by the sheriff's office, who wants to establish permanent roots in the community."

Permanent roots would be a smart move on the county's part, Apple said. Unlike the city of Albany and larger towns, residents of rural Albany County often interact first with the sheriff's department, he said. The office is also the primary road patrol for the rural towns.

Apple pointed specifically to the 2014 murder of 5-year-old Kenneth White in Knox, whose family had various encounters with county agencies before his death, as a reason for having county services closer to home.

"We had a young boy who was murdered out there, and it's mainly because things were not followed up on," he said. "I'd like to bring some more of our resources out there."

The 32,000-square-foot substation currently houses the department's investigative unit, evidence department, emergency management unit, emergency medical services and patrol division. The department subleases space in the building to the town of New Scotland, which houses a justice court in what was the cafeteria and auditorium.

The district agreed to lease the school to the department in 2012 on condition that a school-themed mural be kept intact and that there be an option to cancel the five-year lease in the fourth or fifth year should the need arise for the school to reopen.

But districtwide enrollment has been on the decline for most of the last 10 years. In the years since Clarksville Elementary closed, districtwide enrollment has declined 7 percent. And according to the latest projections from the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, enrollment will slide 9 percent over the next five years.

The sheriff's office has yet to make a formal offer on the building, Apple said. The full market value on the property was $1.7 million in 2016, according to assessment rolls.

Under the lease, the district receives $4,500 a month, or $54,000 a year, from the sheriff's office in addition to in-kind services when it patrols the high school campus from Memorial Day weekend through the end of school. • 518-454-5387 • @bethanybump

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