In Press

Millbrook Board to Vote on Thorne Building’s Future

[Reprinted from]

Northern Dutchess News & Creative Living

Volume 9, Issue 49
December 6-12, 2017

by Mary Keelan

According to Deputy Mayor Joseph Rochfort, speaking at a Village of Millbrook regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 28, the fate of the Village-owned deteriorating 19th-century Thorne Memorial Building will move toward resolution on Thursday, Dec. 21, at 6:30 p.m., when Mayor Rod Brown and the Village trustees are preparing to review and vote on a promised proposal from the recently formed not-for-profit entity, the Thorne Building Community Center.

The expectation is that the Village will transfer ownership of the Thorne Building to the newly formed corporation. Rochfort
explained that the meeting on Thursday, Dec. 21 is not a public hearing. It represents a rescheduling and combining of the regularly scheduled Village meetings for Tuesday, Dec. 12, and Tuesday, Dec. 26, which have been cancelled.

According to Rochfort’s views and that of Michael Herzog and Kyle Van DeWater, the only other trustees present on Nov. 28, the public has had ample time to comment about Thorne Building issues at the meetings held under the auspices of the Thorne Building Committee on Oct. 10, Nov. 27 and scheduled for Dec. 9, as well as at Village meetings, all of which are open to the public. Rochfort offered to check with the Village lawyer to ascertain whether a public hearing was necessary for transfer of Village-owned real property, one that is on the NYS Register of Historic Buildings.

Other impediments to the transfer of ownership, which include the so-called reverter clause and cultural education uses, are in various stages of resolution. As Oakleigh Thorne explained in answering audience questions at the Nov. 27 meeting, “ It wouldn’t make sense for the family to take it back,” adding that the Thorne Building Community Center lawyers were checking out the relevance of the legal issues. He added that “in the last 120 years, the courts have taken a dim view of reverter clauses like this one.”

Though Ms. Martin, the consultant working with the Building Committee, has yet to present a final report summarizing the public meetings held to date, and recommending “best uses of the building for the greater Millbrook community,” informal comments and presentations at meetings suggest that the uses would be in line with the cultural education goals expressed in the original gift and deed from the Thorne family in 1896.

At the same Thorne Building Committee meeting on Nov. 27, Mayor Brown recapped an appraisal of the Thorne Building completed on Nov.16 by R.P. Hubbell and Company Inc., basically confirming his own prediction in authorizing the Village monies of $2,250 for the appraisal that it would be “a negative appraisal.” The Mayor explained how the costs of repairing and renovating the building cancelled any hypothetical comparative value of the land and building.

In a letter to Mayor Brown accompanying the Hubbell report, Grant Ackerly, the certified appraiser, said, “I have completed a consulting report of the above referenced property. The purpose for the consulting assignment is to render conclusions regarding possible alternative uses of the property, current market conditions, and the economic viability of rehabilitation. This is not a formal appraisal.”

The Committee remains positive about raising the $9.5 million estimated to repair and renovate the building for 21st-century community uses, but long-term sustainability remains an unanswered concern. For decades, the common complaint of mayors and trustees is lack of funds to properly care for and upgrade the Thorne Building. This has become the main reason to accelerate a transfer of ownership of this Village asset: it is a financial burden to the Village.

At the same time, inquiring Village residents have been perplexed for some years as to the uses of the two known trusts designated for maintaining the Thorne Building. Any effort for an historical accounting of Thorne Building revenue and expenses is regularly thwarted. It is not known at this time if the Committee has requested such in order to plan for sustainability.