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WHITE PLAINS-A $5.4-million sales deal has been delayed by the Westchester County Board of Legislators. The board referred the matter back to committee last week to ascertain whether the building purchase, which would move the county’s Board of Elections from White Plains to 450 Saw Mill River Rd. in Ardsley, violates state law.

The Board of Legislators voted the proposed purchase of the former Ardsley Park Science and Technology Center back for review by its budget & appropriations and government operations committees in order to see if the move would violate state law–Section 216 of the New York State County Law–that requires the county Board of Elections be located in the county seat–or in Westchester’s case in White Plains. The Board of Elections’ current address is 25 Quarropas St. in White Plains where it occupies approximately 10,000 sf.

The plan, proposed by Westchester County Executive Andy Spano, would have the county purchase the 85,000-sf complex in Ardsley. Salvatore Carrera, director of real estate and economic development for Westchester County, says the county intends to have the Board of Elections maintain a smaller satellite office at its current location or at another county location in White Plains if the purchase deal with Ardsley Partners is approved. Noted local developer Jon Halpern is a principal of the ownership of the property, which sits on nearly 5.5 acres.

“I think it’s very important that the administration of the Board of Elections as well as the services heavily used by the public remain accessible in the county seat,” says the county Board of Legislators chairman Bill Ryan.

Majority Leader Martin Rogowsky adds, “we are continuing our due diligence on the proposed location of the Board of Elections and we need to fully understand the impact of Section 216 on whatever decision we make.” The county is under mandate to consolidate all of its electoral functions at the county level, including ownership, care, custody and control of voting machines, as part of the federal Help America to Vote Act. Carrera says that in addition to housing operations of the county Board of Elections, a considerable amount of space at 450 Saw Mill River Rd. will be used to store new voting machines. He says the county will take possession of 453 new voting machines in August and another 1,100 to 1,200 new machines about six to eight months later.

The entire project will cost the county approximately $14.3 million. In addition to the purchase price, the county will spend approximately $600,000 to close the deal; expend $7.3 million on a major capital improvement program at the property and $1 million to be set aside for the Village of Ardsley for municipal projects there to offset its loss of real estate taxes once the property goes off the tax rolls.

Carrera defends the purchase deal, saying it is way below market value. “There is not a building out there today in Westchester County that you could buy for $63 a sf,” he says. Carrera, who notes he favors the county owning real estate rather than leasing, adds that over 20 years the entire project (including the purchase and capital improvement program) calculates out to $12.23 a sf.

“I would like to have someone show me how I can buy five acres and a new office building at that price,” Carrera says. He tells GlobeSt.com that the county will await the findings of the Board of Legislators to determine whether it can finalize the sales deal for 450 Saw Mill River Road or begin a search for space all over again. He notes that 450 Saw Mill River Rd. bested six other properties that responded to a Request for Information issued by the county.

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