Officials: More community involvement needed

Attendees of the St. Johnsville community meeting are shown. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O’Hara)

ST. JOHNSVILLE — A third community meeting was held in the village on Tuesday addressing a variety of issues including the need for additional manpower and more community involvement at village events and issues concerning the Central Hotel.

Hosting the meeting were St. Johnsville Chamber of Commerce members Shellie Walrath and Juanita Handy.

“[We’re] just trying to get more community involvement, branch out and get more help with stuff,” Walrath said.

The first topic discussed was the need for more participation to help with community events such as the annual Spring Fest.

The Spring Fest takes place each year during Mother’s Day weekend. One of the re-occurring issues with the event has been getting volunteers to help plan the event, as well as getting more people to attend.

Walrath said the festival is usually held on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but the Chamber of Commerce have been considering adjusting the days to include Sunday, as well as coming up with more ideas for Spring Fest.

One attendee of the meeting suggested extending Spring Fest to Sunday would give families something to do on Mother’s Day.

Their goal for Spring Fest is to expand the event and make it bigger with more activities and more people involved, they said. Some ideas discussed by attendees at the meeting that could potentially help expand the event included local marching bands, food trucks placed throughout the village, family activities, a pancake breakfast on Mother’s Day and more participation in the parade, such as more floats, getting local businesses involved, Dairy Court and costume characters.

Other suggestions included getting the local theater involved having a mother-daughter pageant, a fishing derby, a farmers market and a 5K.

“We have a lot of good ideas, but we don’t have the manpower to pull it off,” Handy said.

Following discussion on Spring Fest, St. Johnsville Mayor Charles Straney discussed the current status on the Central Hotel. The hotel is located on 12 E. Main St. It is a two-sided building that was built in the 1860s and has had various uses.

Straney said the hotel has been sold multiple times through Montgomery County’s forclosure process.

“In the past year there were three sales,” Straney said. “An auction just completed in June, that’s when I stepped in. That’s three sales. That last auction precluded the person from actually doing an interior inspection and that was some of the things we did as village during the second auction that people understood there were code violations with the building and we’d make sure it was clamped down.”

Straney said he went to the Montgomery County Legislative meeting to express his concerns. He said when he went through the building with the Land Bank a lot of issues in the building were noticed.

Straney said he was trying to get the Land Bank to step in the lead role, but it has to be in conjunction with community involvement.

“The fire department took pictures of the roof, so we know what the condition of that is,” Straney said. “It’s well past its life.”

Straney proposed two possibilities: spend money and have a building or spend money and have a lot.

“So if there is some potential for a future for that address that involves some community raising funds, it’s time to step up,” Straney said.

He said he would like to tarp the building to hold the building in spaces for a period of time.

Straney said he would like to fundraise for the building and revitalize it, but needs community help.

“The first step is to engage community commitment,” Straney said.

By Patricia Older

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