CLAREMONT — A local couple with several growing businesses is preparing to purchase and renovate the former Junior Sports League (JSL) building on 45 School St. for their new manufacturing operations.

On Wednesday, the Claremont City Council voted unanimously to allow the sale of the city-owned JSL building to Jeff and Sarah Barrett of Claremont, who own the Ink Factory, KG Signs and Awesome Sauce, which makes VegetaBalls Pesto.

Jeff Barrett told the council that their business operations have considerably outgrown their current building at 45 Water St.

When the Barretts purchased 45 Water St. in August 2016, their only business had been their screen printing company The Ink Factory. Since then they have acquired two additional businesses: VegetaBalls Pesto in May 2017 and KG Signs, a sign and lettering company, in December 2017.

“The space on Water Street tends to be pretty narrow and has a set of center columns, so the [JSL’] gym space would be ideal for the screen printing business,” Barrett said. “The additional space in the [JSL] basement would work really well for our food business as well as the lettering and graphics business.”

The 45 School St. building is approximately 117,000 square feet though renovations are needed to make much of it usable.

The Barretts are prepared to invest approximately $400,000 to rehabilitate the building to relocate and expand their business operations, said City Manager Ed Morris. These renovations would include rebuilding the external entry for ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliance, overhauling the electrical and heating systems and the restoration of the outside parking area.

Councilors were pleased that the local couple were eager to rehabilitate the JSL building, which was constructed in 1950 as a National Guard Armory and last housed a volunteer-run youth roller skating rink before the city shut the building down in 2014 due to numerous building code violations.

“For me, being born and brought up here it’s nice knowing the building is going to be well taken care of and is going back into a business use,” Councilor Nick Koloski said.

Koloski also noted the sale would relieve the taxpayers of the annual cost to maintain and weatherize the building, which has remained shuttered for the last six years.

Barrett said the building was recently reassessed at a value of $311,000, which would amount to an annual property tax of $12,700.

Before closing the sale the Barretts must first get a special exception from the Claremont Zoning Board to place a manufacturing business inside a residential zone and approval from the Claremont Planning Board on the building plan, Morris said.

Barrett said those respective meetings are scheduled on Nov. 2 and Nov. 9, as Barrett has already submitted his applications with anticipation of the city council’s approval.

“If both of those are approved we would like to close as soon as possible, because I’d like to get roof repairs done and start working on heating and efficiency items prior to the winter season,” Barrett said. “I want to see the damage that’s happening to the building stop,”

In 2018, the Sullivan County Department of Corrections had expressed interest in purchasing 45 School St. to house inmates from their Transition, Re-entry and Inmate Life Skills (TRAILS) program, which aimed to provide a temporary, sober-free residence to inmates returning to the community. However, the county decided to explore other options following feedback from the Claremont community that the neighborhood was a poor location to consider an inmate sobriety-house.

The county has since acquired the former Eagle Times building on 19 Sullivan St., to house its residential program.

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