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Former Cazenovia College campus to house State Police academy

New York state trooper cars (file)
Pat Bradley
New York state trooper cars (file)

Cazenovia College in Madison County, New York closed its doors in May, but a new kind of class will begin this fall.

Just weeks after Caz graduated its final class of students, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the campus that dates back 200 years will soon train state troopers.

The Democrat said in a statement that the campus will be leased for two years as it hosts a State Police Auxiliary Academy. Hochul said in part:

"With this additional auxiliary academy at Cazenovia College, we can help ensure that the New York State Police is fully staffed with highly trained women and men to keep New Yorkers safe – a top priority for my administration,” said Hochul.

The most recent state budget includes $66 million to fund two additional State Police classes.

Cazenovia village mayor Kurt Wheeler welcomes the news that the campus will remain in use.

“I live right in the same neighborhood as the core campus and its been very, very quiet here since the kids graduated in May, and certainly just having that sense of activity and vitality again is great,” said Wheeler.

Wheeler said he met with state police to discuss plans.

“Most of the core campus plus the athletic facility is really what they’re using. There’s some of the peripheral buildings that are remote from the core campus that they will not have a need for, but they’ll be conducting their training on a good portion of the overall campus,” said Wheeler.

According to officials, the leased space will accommodate up to 275 recruits and 115 instructors. Firearms training and Emergency Vehicle Operations Courses will be held off-site and will not relocate to Cazenovia. The main New York State Police Training Academy is in Albany, about two hours away.

The troopers trained in Cazenovia will serve across the state. Acting State Police Superintendent Steven Nigrelli called the new academy “vital” to growing the ranks, adding “the Cazenovia College campus provides a central location within New York and is best suited to meet the needs of our Basic School training.”

In December, soon after college officials announced they would not be admitting a Fall 2023 class, then-Cazenovia College President David Bergh said the college was holding conversations about the future of the campus.

“It’s frankly the part of this that we may have the least ability to influence but we want to do everything we can to help in finding something to happen here for the next generation of this place that’s a benefit to the community,” said Bergh.

Cazenovia College was small, with fewer than 800 enrolled students recently. But Bergh said last year the campus had an economic impact of tens of millions of dollars.

“The most recent economic impact study that was done had us at $55 million of annual economic impact on this year – and that’s in a COVID year, it’s been higher than that in the past – and, more importantly, we’re kind of the cultural heartbeat of this community,” said Bergh.

Fewer trainees than students will be on campus at any time, but officials are excited about the State Police’s use of the site in the interim, as long-term planning for a permanent tenant is underway.

Local jewelry store owner Ralph Monforte, a former Cazenovia town supervisor who’s also involved with economic development at the Greater Cazenovia Area Chamber of Commerce, said it would be beneficial to find a use that would put the property on the tax rolls.

“That property has never paid taxes for 200 years or any property that they held outside of the campus, so to think that there’s that much potential for future tax gain for the village and the town is really great, let alone the change in use as far as infrastructure goes: water, sewer, fire protection, police protection. There’s some great things there that can happen to help the community as a whole,” said Monforte.

First, the State Police Auxiliary Academy plans to welcome its first class in October.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.