City Hall’s future? A priority for next city administration

The condition of the City Hall that houses much of Williamsport’s governmental offices is, to be blunt, a mess.

City officials, in a recent Sun-Gazette story, estimated it would cost millions of dollars to clean up the mess.

The elevator is an inspection question mark. A rear ramp to the police parking area is not level with the sidewalk.

The heating and air conditioning systems are not working properly.

There are handicapped accessibility issues at the entrance to the building and in other places. There are security shortcomings that need to be addressed.

Those issues must be addressed in any updates of a government building.

Complicating matters, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. We are less than seven months away from inaugurating a new mayor and, with that, probably a revised administration.

Given those realities, a decision on the building should properly be made in 2020.

And the first step, no matter who the mayor is, should be to get a firm estimate of what the repairs could cost and how those repairs would be funded.

The next step should be to analyze whether it would be cheaper to move city government operations to a smaller, more efficient building and sell the City Hall building to a developer for modernization and reuse.

Sound farfetched?

Well, that is exactly what the city did in the late 1970s with the City Hall building on Pine Street, which was a deteriorating structure on the National Register of Historic Place. A local developer, Richard Lundy, saved the building from the wrecking ball and it continues to function today as an office/hotel building.

The building city government is using formerly housed the city Post Office and federal court. With city transit and streets and parks workers operating out of buildings on West Third Street, a building where city tax collections, meetings and office functions take place is needed.

Clearly, the future of the current building is a big question mark. But the question needs to be a priority for the next administration and City Council, not the current one.