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North East Community Council

The Early Years, 1988-2000

By Sam Busselle, Co-Founder of NECC

The North East Community Council was established in winter of 1988 by a group of individuals who were concerned about the lack of services for Millerton and North East citizens. Since Millerton was located as far away from the county seat as any municipality, residents found it difficult to access the services that were primarily based in Poughkeepsie.
For the winter and spring of the first year, the Council met monthly to identify the gaps in services, inviting agency directors and commissioners to the meetings. By spring we had inaugurated our first program, the North East Care Car, in collaboration with the American Red Cross of Dutchess County. The Red Cross contributed a car and funds for gas and maintenance. The Council was responsible for identifying volunteer drivers and dispatch.
In the summer of 1988, the Council received its first grant, from the United Way, to provide a safe place for adults and teens to go for advice and discussion on the subject of drugs and alcohol. The program was housed for a year at the back of the "Brick Block" building in space contributed by the owners, Bev and Ed Ardnt.
In 1989 the program expanded with additional funding and we rented a room in the former "Wayne Feeds" building on North Center Street. Now the Council had a Center, and we have maintained one ever since. For two years Director Ed Baker ran the center for teens that included role-playing, conflict resolution and supervised recreation.
Unfortunately, in January of 1991 there was a fire in the adjacent printing business and the Center was forced into temporary quarters in a house on Simmons Street, contributed by the Salisbury Bank.
In 1992 we moved again to a storefront contributed by the "Barnard Florists" adjacent to the Moviehouse. And in the spring of 1993 we started negotiations for our permanent facility.
We located a building on South Center Street that had been built as a Ford garage and showroom at the turn of the century and since been a bar, a retail paint store and a storage facility for Campbell and Keeler Appliances. The owner, Mrs. Danyi, who had lived in the apartment on the second floor with her husband, was now living in the County Infirmary in Millbrook and the county owned the building.
The Council secured a grant from the county "Community Development Block Grant" program and received a loan from two town residents. We closed on the building and the adjacent lot to the north and west of the center in July of 1993, paying a total of $100,000.
The building needed a considerable amount of work. Volunteers demolished the yards and yards of shelving and some flimsy walls on the first floor. The floors were sanded and refinished. We were in business!
A new grant of allowed us to insulate the exterior walls on the first floor and install new heating convectors. At the same time, the Council formed a development committee with the support and guidance of the Berkshire Taconic Foundation. During 1994-95 we raised $200,000! – to pay back the loans, do more substantial renovations and establish a small contingency fund.
Then followed a more extensive renovation in 1994. The stairway was reconfigured and the first floor bathroom rebuilt. Now, the back stair meets the fire code for the primary means of egress from the second floor. In addition the stair and bathroom can be accessed from the back door without going in to the main room.
In 1995, Sandra Greve joined the staff as Director, and launched a new series of programs. During her 5-year tenure, the Center hosted successful programs including Toddler Art, Partners for Children, Ageless Art, an Environmental Awareness Program for teens, and a host of other programs for all ages.
The building underwent a new series of renovations in 1998-99 with the edition of the Eugene Brooks Deck. We received another Community Development Block Grant of $24,000. A portion of that was siphoned off to pay for an emergency roof replacement project. In addition to the deck, we upgraded the septic system with a 1,250 gallon tank and two 600 gallon drywells.
During the excavation for the new tanks we removed the buried oil storage tank. We discovered that it had been leaking and had to enter into a contract with an engineer to develop a remediation plan with the Department of Environmental Conservation, which took several years to complete.
In 2000, we received another CDBG grant to finish the landscaping for the deck and to replace the storage shed on the south side of the building. Four new windows were installed on the north side of the first floor to allow for more light and ventilation and so that we can see the play area from the Center. The former boiler room was converted to a computer lab, with computers donated by IBM.
In February 2001, Jenny Hansell became the Center's director. Several more rounds of renovations ensued, including a complete refurbishment upstairs and down, grading and sodding the playground and a new sign. Now, the Community Center is a bright, cheerful and welcoming place for all to enjoy.