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Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse holds public forum on closed community center

March 08, 2019 09:27 AM

COHOES – Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse made his first public appearance since he was arrested by the FBI last week on charges he used campaign funds to cover personal expenses. 

He refused to speak with the media Thursday, instead focusing on the public forum he was hosting. People came out to the Cohoes Senior Center to talk about the Cohoes Community Center closing its doors abruptly last October.

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“It just breaks my heart that these seniors now have no place to go,” said resident and former swim teacher at the center Colleen Grignon.

There was a lot of emotion in the room as many had been going to the center for decades. There is a gym and pool at the center and there used to be a daycare run out of it.

Mayor Morse said the forum was for people to get their questions answered about the closure. The meeting was heated at times, many wanting to know how the center ended up $375,000 in debt and having to close.

“We operated in a deficit then we were unable to climb out of that deficit,” said President of the Board of Directors of the Cohoes Community Center David Mitola.

But many people wanting to know more than that and wanting someone held responsible for the deficit.

“Not just held responsible, but what happened, why were we taking money from swimmers, from parents on Monday for the week knowing apparently that the building was going to close on Wednesday,” said Grignon.

But Mitola said he doesn’t blame anyone.

“It's a systemic issue with just an operational cost of trying to run a nonprofit in our area and we can't point to one particular thing,” explained Mitola. “It's multifactorial why it failed.”

Officials wanted to push Thursday night’s meeting forward and have people look toward the future of the center. Mayor Morse offered up a solution saying he wants to move the public library to the community center.

“Turn the community center into a recreation and learning center,” said Morse. “Could we move our library to a 21st century library into the community center, let the city operate with a not for profit meaning the community center.”

Something that could help with that idea, state aid secured by Assemblyman John McDonald. He has $500,000 in state money but he says it has to be used by a municipal entity like the city or a school district.

“I've been talking to anyone who's willing to step forward to see if they've got a program they're looking to build or expand and see if they can be a partnership with us," said McDonald.

The closure of the community center is being investigated by the Albany County District Attorney’s Office. The center is still currently running. People are able to rent it and volunteers are helping with that. It’s costing $12,000 a month to keep it open, but money for that will soon run out so a solution is needed soon.

Credits

Emily De Vito

Copyright 2019 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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