The former Board of Education building on East Thomas Street has been reborn as a pair of businesses run by Joyce Finnegan. And the Rome resident Finnegan is installing "green" innovations such as solar panels to save big on utilities.
Finnegan bought the building to transition her ROJETI hanging laundry bag business to a location where she could both store the product and have an office component. She’d most recently been renting space at 530 Harbor Way, but it didn’t have office space. But the former district office at 112 E. Thomas St. proved too big for that use alone, at 27,508 square feet.
The challenge became how to utilize the rest of the old Harvey E. Alter School, erected in said Finnegan. Eventually, she settled on her new enterprise — Store Scan Shred. The site, she noted, has a storage component for documents, including massively high ceilings in many places. It is a secure site to help keep records private.
The company bought the building from the school district for $40,000. It spent $30,000 on a light replacement project in partnership with National Grid, replacing all the interior and exterior lights, reducing the number of interior florescent bulb fixtures by 64 percent. The rack system, for storing all physical documents, cost about $20,000. Then cleaning and rehabilitation of the site, from emptying the basement to tearing out office dividers, took another $20,000.
Then there’s the $75,000 solar power set up on the roof. The company just received delivery of 65 panels that are up top, awaiting installation. They will be capable of producing three to four times as much electricity as the businesses on site need to operate, said Finnegan, so the goal is to be not only self-sufficient, but to sell electricity at a profit. When Finnegan’s company bought the building, it had a utility bill of $48,000 in 2010 — when it closed. With only part of the building being heated now, the bill fell to $300 per month. That’s after the company installed a high-efficiency furnace and air conditioning system, turning off the boilers. Finnegan said she plans to share her solar project with other Rome businesses so they can do the same.
In rehabilitating the site, plenty of material was reused and repurposed. The company also donated materials such as ceiling tiles and doors to an upstart developer who was renovating a large apartment house in the City of Oneida. Tons of metal were hauled away along with thousands of feet of wire and cable.
What they found was not just scrap metal and old wood. There was a bust of American poet and educator Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from 1911, which now sits in the renovated Arsenal House. There’s an image viewer from 1908 that still has a light bulb and other working parts intact (but no image plates), which sits in Finnegan’s office inside an arm-length metal box. The other curiosity is a crumbling stone plaque from 1870 titled "Public School House," with the names of the members of the Board of Education chiseled below. Though it is fragile and cracked, Finnegan has offered it to the district to reclaim.
Also found among the clutter during renovations were pallets of educational materials. The company is donating the new, unused books and workbooks to the Boys & Girls Club of America.
Store Scan Shred opened for business at the start of this year, though the company has been working on the building since last summer. It offers a secure records management facility for physical storage of documents, as well as on-site or web-based electronic document storage. "We don’t care what you put in the box," said Finnegan. Clients and document types can range from payroll, medical, archival down to citizens who just want a place to store old paperwork. The appeal is in the savings for companies that don’t want to dedicate resources to the real estate and manpower needed for on-site document storage and access. "It’s a time saving, cost saving thing," said Finnegan. "Your personnel can be doing other things rather than digging through boxes." Store Scan Shred has also partnered with Confidata, a local shredding company, to avoid competition, allowing Confidata to refer shredding customers to Finnegan’s company for its other services and allowing Finnegan to refer storage clients to Confidata for shredding.
The company (storescanshred.com) has two clients, two more on the horizon and a meeting with a fifth next week, Finnegan said. She said she wants to add municipal customers such as the City of Rome as clients too. Currently, the business is run by her with night and weekend duties handled by a second employee. She plans to hire another office staff member and a courier soon. To make sure employees are capable of handling private information, including medical records, Finnegan intends to have a thorough screening process for employees, including drug testing and criminal background checks.
Doing business in Rome is nothing new to Finnegan and her family. The second generation native Roman still lives on Schuyler Street. Her mother ran DiBardino’s bakery and her father ran Aluminum Products of Rome. Various aunts and uncles ran a restaurant, a glass company and a pastry shop.