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State Office of Mental Health and Ogdensburg officials plan meeting on Point Airy land deal

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OGDENSBURG — Officials with the city of Ogdensburg and the state Office of Mental Health plan to meet May 15 to begin discussing the possible turnover of 45 acres of surplus land on the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center campus to the city.

The transfer of the 45-acre plot, located along Route 37 between the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority and the psychiatric center’s Children and Youth Facility, was authorized in the state budget that called for the sale of the property to the city at a “fair market value.”

As part of a long-term redevelopment plan for much of the vacant psychiatric center campus, City Manager John M. Pinkerton said the city hopes to invest money from the development of the 45-acre plot into acquiring and rehabilitating other parts of Point Airy.

But everything hinges on the vague “fair market value” language included in the bill that authorized the transaction, Mr. Pinkerton said.

If the price is too high, Mr. Pinkerton said, the entire program would fall apart. Mr. Pinkerton, along with other city officials and state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, have argued that it be transferred to the city for $1.

The city hopes to eventually take over and redevelop 115 acres the state has identified as surplus land on the campus that include wooded land, waterfront and the property on which the Ag Energy LP cogeneration plant sits.

Mr. Pinkerton said the meeting on May 15 will give the city the chance to lay out its vision for the property and demonstrate its strategic position when it comes to the development of the land.

“The only plan that I can think of that makes this work is for the city to take over the properties,” Mr. Pinkerton said.

He said the city has lived with the decaying property for decades and stands to gain financially if it can get it back on the tax rolls.

In particular, Mr. Pinkerton said, the city plans on explaining to OMH officials how a revolving fund would see profits from properties reinvested in redeveloping other vacant parts of the psychiatric center campus, including the aging former psychiatric center buildings that dot the property.

Mr. Pinkerton said he also plans on reminding OMH about the two times in the last 20 years that the state tried and failed to sell the property on its own. The first time was in 1999 and the second was in 2002.

“Ogdensburg has the incentive to actually rehabilitate the property,” Mr. Pinkerton said. “We want to make the case that the city is in the best place to redevelop the land.”

If the “fair market value” is too high, Mr. Pinkerton said, the city’s ability to reinvest in other properties would be diminished, thereby jeopardizing the rest of the program.

Mayor William D. Nelson said the May 15 meeting has the potential to be a big deal for the city in its quest to take over and redevelop the land.

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