Massena mayor says no decision yet on salt barn that received state funding; theater group official discusses plans
By ANDY GARNDER
MASSENA -- The North Country Regional Economic Development Council has awarded more than a half-million dollars for two big projects in the village, a salt barn site that has stirred controversy at village meetings, along with funding to restore a downtown landmark.
On Wednesday, the state announced that $225,000 will go to the village to build a new salt barn the Massena Arts and Theater Association would receive $300,000 to rehabilitate the former Schine’s Theater on Main Street, across from the Town Hall.Maor Tim Currier said the salt barn location has not been decided, and the address on the application was because they had to state a location.
“There’s been no decision by the trustees … We’re still in discussions with the town. The exact location hasn’t been determined,” Mayor Tim Currier said in a phone interview.
He said he plans to discuss it at an upcoming town meeting, probably next month.
“I’d really be shocked if we discuss it at the December meeting, it’s our reorganizational meeting and there’s a lot going on … it will probably be in January,” he said.
The salt storage has drawn the ire of residents who live near the DPW. They say they do not want the salt stored near their homes because they believe it would create too much truck traffic on local streets.
In a statement sent to the press shortly after the grants were announced, Currier said the theater funding could be “the catalyst needed to spur long term growth in the core of the community.”
“Bringing the former downtown theater back to life will spur further growth in the downtown core as we build upon some previous small successes downtown. Congratulations to the MATA, we look forward to partnering with them to improve the downtown,” he said in the release.
In the release, Currier said he “believes strongly in the regional approach to economic development, especially since the Regional Economic Development Council process requires that regions have a business plan to create jobs and doing it on a regional basis allows the North Country to be competitive with other areas of the state.”
Shawn Gray, the president of the MATA, says they want to use the funding toward the first steps of converting the former theater into a multi-purpose event venue.
“Initially, this money is earmarked for doing … a lot of the interior nuts and bolts, electrical, plumbing, HVAC to make it habitable so we can open up,” Gray said in a Wednesday phone interview. “We’d like to open it up and get some programming, using it as a performance venue downtown and go from that.”
He said the building right now has no heat, so they are eyeing the spring to get things moving.
“This will go a long way to get some basic rudimentary abilities to heat it and have a usable space,” Gray said. “What we will now do is engage an architectural firm to do the design work, and we will go going through and sending RFPs for the different aspects of the project to go through the bid process and hire a contractor to do that kind of work.
“There’s no heating, so once we can get it heated, as soon as the weather breaks in the spring we’d like to have everything in place … and take it from there.”
He said the venue could be used for music performances, theater, comedy, lectures, film screenings and a variety of other events.