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Building Blocks Day Care $220k loan written off by village of Potsdam

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POTSDAM - A Potsdam couple says the recent decision by the Potsdam Village Board to write off a quarter million loan to the Building Blocks Day Care is just further proof that the project should have never been backed by local government funding programs.

One year following the end of a 20-year relationship with the Building Blocks Day Care, the village of Potsdam has officially written-off the group’s loan of $220,426.

In May 2013, the Potsdam Central School District took ownership of the former day care center, located on its campus behind AA Kingston Middle School.

This move came after the termination of the two-decade long lease between the day care and school district.

With the write-off, the Planning and Development Department will be able to remove the loan from its chart of loan accounts.

“Based on state education law, they had a lease term of 20 years, so after 20 they had to vacate the premises. They did that a year ago, and the village was owed $220,000,” Potsdam Planning and Development Director Fred J. Hanss said. “All that happened (Monday) night was, when the village forgave the loan, all was good. The next step was removing the records from the book and that happened on Monday.”

Building Blocks Day Care had operated in the building since it was built in 1993.

The day care’s supposed inability to pay “fair market value” for the property and the school’s relationship with the facility has long drawn the ire of Richard and Jane Hollister. The couple claimed that for two decades Building Blocks was unable to keep up with their mortgage payments.

“We’ve had some issues as far as subsidizing the corporation. If you look at the details of it, in 2009 the village decided that the group did not have to pay the interest. So if you look at it, the total loss was around $390,000 for the taxpayers. In 2009, the village wrote off the interest on the loan and recently they wrote off the loan for $220,000,” Mr. Hollister said.

“It’s important to keep in mind that these funds were supposed to go to other people with small businesses. It’s very sad for the community that they decided to do nothing about it and let it go for 20 years,” he added.

“The school cosigned initially and that was corrected 10 years later. The whole issue is that these monies for this loan came from all of us as taxpayers. The day care was never able to keep up with their payments from the very beginning. As a result, a total of a little over $390,000 is just gone and that should have been to benefit other corporations in the village of Potsdam. It was poorly conceived,” Mrs. Hollister added. “Taxpayers in general have not understand the immensity of it, which is too bad because it’s been a big deal for a number of years.”

Discussions regarding renovations of the former day care building have taken place, and there is a tentative plan for the building to be used as classroom space for St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES.

Despite their issues with how the situation was dealt with in the past, the couple is happy with what the building has planned for in the future.

“I’m glad the school is now focusing their efforts on education,” Mrs. Hollister said.

“As far as the school using the building, I think it’s very positive. It will be a benefit to school children and their parents,” Mr. Hollister added.

Construction of that structure was paid for using grant money from Housing and Urban Development, as well as other monies administered through the Potsdam Planning and Development Office.



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