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Ogdensburg state officials to meet over Psych Center land sale

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OGDENSBURG — City, state and county officials will meet Thursday morning to discuss the proposed transfer of 45 acres of idle St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center land bordering the St. Lawrence River and Route 37 to the city.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, said Tuesday she plans to attend the 10 a.m. gathering at City Hall, 330 Ford St., and use the opportunity to continue advocating for the state to turn the land over to city officials for $1 so that it can be redeveloped and placed back on the tax rolls.

“The state has just walked away and left these buildings decaying and falling down. Now this is an opportunity to put the property back in the city’s hands,” Sen. Ritchie said.

Thursday’s meeting in Ogdensburg will include representatives from the state Office of Mental Health, the Empire State Development Office, city administrative and planning officials, the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency and other county officials.

St. Lawrence County Administrator Karen M. St. Hilaire also will attend the meeting, which will involve a presentation by city planners to state officials and a tour of the dilapidated St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center grounds.

Ms. St. Hilaire said St. Lawrence County fully supports a plan by city planners to revitalize the surplus psychiatric center land through a combination of private investment and public-sector initiatives.

“The city manager and planner made a presentation to the county board which was very impressive, outlining the possible uses of this land, and the county fully supports it,” Ms. St. Hilaire said. “It’s a shame that some of the most valuable real estate in the city has been allowed to deteriorate for years.”

The city has proposed redeveloping the land, which borders Route 37 and the St. Lawrence River, for commercial and residential use. If the plan is implemented, city officials hope to use money from land sales to private developers to set up a revolving fund that can be used to rehabilitate and tear down vacant buildings.

Many of the aging structures are contaminated with asbestos and lead paint and are effectively unusable as they stand now, according to city officials.

Last month Sen. Ritchie said she was notified by the state Office of General Services that steps had been taken to produce an appraisal reflecting “a fair market” value of the surplus lands. It is for that amount state officials plan to offer the property to the city.

Sen. Ritchie said it was unclear whether a dollar figure generated by the state representing a fair market value will be presented Thursday.

“I’m not sure if that is something that will be given at the meeting. I’m still of the belief that anything more than one dollar is too much,” she said.

All told, there are some 160 acres at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center identified by city and state officials as surplus.

Although the city hopes to eventually take over all of the land from the state, Thursday’s meeting is expected to focus mainly on a 45-acre parcel.

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