By CAROLINE MURRAY
PERTH -- In Building 3 of the former Tryon Juvenile Detention Center, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer held a press conference Thursday, urging the Northern Border Regional Commission to provide funding to help rehabilitate the building into a training center for Fulton-Montgomery Community College students.
The project is the latest Fulton County Industrial Development Agency officials are tackling in their initiative to turn the entire campus into a new technology park and incubator center.
Recently, F-MCC President Dustin Swanger approached IDA director James Mraz about converting the building into a lab and classroom space for a new heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration trades program.
Mraz said the total cost for the project is $200,000, and Swanger already obtained a $80,000 grant from the State University of New York to purchase equipment to outfit the lab once it is ready.
Schumer said Fulton County already applied for $120,000 in federal funds through the commission, and is hoping the organization follows through with the grant.
Thursday, he stood beside Swanger and Mraz as he talked about the site's potential and the good it would bring the community.
"This is just the kind of program Northern Borders likes to fund -- job creation programs. This is their mission and purpose and they want a place with bang for their buck," Schumer said. "I am here today to pledge my support for the entire project to help see it through in its later stages, but first get the NBRC funds so this building and others near it, turn into a vibrant creation center."
Schumer believes the center is a perfect opportunity for businesses to start up and grow.
With the addition of an incubator and work force training center, such as the one the development agency hopes to create in Building 3, Schumer believes the transformation would be complete and worthwhile for many companies to invest in.
Especially the HVAC program Swanger intends to introduce to the college and provide at the proposed incubator center.
Swanger said the program is brand new, and still has to go through the curriculum approval program with the state before publicly being announced.
"But I have no doubt once we launch it, we will see a couple things," Swanger said. "Returning adults who are interested in the program who are unemployed and also see younger folks from BOCES program who want to continue their education."
Schumer said the park lies in the epicenter of where chip fabrication industries have sprouted, and HVAC skills are needed to keep those companies running.
He pointed to GlobalFoundries in Saratoga County and other chip fabrication labs across the capital region having great resources for those graduating with HVAC certification.
But Schumer recognized before the former juvenile center can transform into a training center or business park, the buildings need some updates.
"Repairs need to come before students and new companies can come," he added.
The 515-acre site became the Tryon School for Boys in 1966.
Schumer said the center shut down in 2011, and since then, damage has occurred.
He said Building 3 is in need of repairs such as new ventilation, plumbing and electrical systems.
Since the systems shut off, damages from heat and moisture have surfaced, Schumer said, as he pointed to paint peeling on the ceiling.
The senator said the commission is designed to address community and economic development needs in the northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
He said endorsing the project should help solidify a grant from the commission.
Mraz said the planning department should hear a decision on the application funding by September.
He said the county has already received $2 million in grant funding from the state, and the agency has already made strides converting the center into a shovel-ready site for businesses.
So far, Mraz said they have repositioned roads and the center's water and sewer infrastructure system. With the exception of Building 3, Mraz said they have plans to raze all the other buildings on campus as part of their project to get the site shovel ready.
He said very little taxpayer money has been used in construction on the site.
And, Schumer hopes this will not change in the future. He intends to advocate for more federal funding, as the project progresses.
"These counties are starved for money," Schumer said. "That is why we need federal funding."