ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – In a unanimous vote nearly three weeks ago, the Chemung County Legislature approved the County’s million dollar purchase of the former Five Star Bank building in downtown Elmira. As of Monday, discussions were still ongoing as to how the building will be used. The money is coming from federal Covid-19 funds received by Chemung County from the American Rescue Plan.

The more than 50,000 square foot building and 230 space parking lot is located on 150 Lake Street and East Market Street. It sits right across several county buildings, including the County Legislature, County Clerk’s Office, and District Attorney’s office.

“Everyone pretty much agreed this was the best option,” said Chemung County District 1 Legislator Lawana Morse. “Back in 2022, the legislature voted to set aside funds. Kind of at that time it was earmarked for moving the district attorney’s office because they are very cramped in their current place. Since then, you know, they’ve been looking and the executive office brought us the legislature a few different ideas of buildings that they were looking at, this being one of them. This made the most logistical sense of using that money. Currently, who and what departments will be moved into this building, that’s going to be on the County Executive to decide. There’s been some ideas tossed around. The District Attorney has spoken, the County Clerk’s Office has spoken their wishes. So really at this time, it’s a purchase of and then figuring out.” said Morse.

The Chairman of the Chemung County Legislature, Mark Margeson, sent the following statement to 18 News reporter Nicolas Dubina.

“The Chemung County Legislature has approved the purchase of the Lake Street property for the purpose of consolidating 6-8 county departments. The Legislature has worked with the Executive to solidify the proposed purchase that will allow the savings on current leases for office space and parking areas. This new purchase allows for the county 230 parking spaces and a significant amount of additional well needed office space.”

Mark Margeson
Chemung County Legislature

“There’s lots of ideas being tossed around,” said Chemung County District 11 legislator Brent Stermer. “At the end of the day, it is the county executive’s decision on how the building gets utilized. I have to think that he is a brilliant man. I’m really supportive of this. It would ease a lot of different rental situations that we have, which would actually cause long term savings over a period of years which the building would pay for itself.”

At the April 10th legislature meeting where the purchase was approved, Chemung County District Attorney Weeden Wetmore voiced his objection to a building that would house both the District Attorney’s office and the Chemung County Sheriff, or any other law enforcement agencies.

“I have a problem,” Wetmore told county legislators. “If I’m going to be meeting with witnesses, with confidential informants, with potential victims of crime, if they’re next to a police agency that’s investigating those crimes, what happens if the parties pass each other? It’s across the street from the Public Advocate. It’s across the street from the Public Defender. They say, well you’re going to be on the second floor. Rodney says you’re going to be on the second floor. We got elevators. People are going to go by. I like where we are. However, I need space.” 

Even though legislators approved the deal, it is still not finalized. County lawyers say they’re making sure all the paperwork and financial details are in order. 18 News reporter Nicolas Dubina spoke with Chemung County Executive Chris Moss by phone Monday. Mr. Moss said he would be happy to discuss his thoughts on the building, but he would like to see the deal signed and officially closed first.