Officials contemplate future of aging City Hall

Buckets capture rain droplets and streams of water in heavy rain. Air doesn’t circuclate in City Council chambers during heat waves. And a ramp doesn’t serve its intended purpose near police headquarters.

All of these deficiencies at City Hall, 245 W. Fourth St., are giving Mayor Gabriel J. Campana’s administration and City Council pause about what to do next.

A quick poll of employees at the building indicated that nobody believes they will be there long.

Discussion is occurring on whether the city will be able to relocate some offices into Executive Plaza on Pine Street, which the Lycoming County commissioners are putting up for sale.

Most city leaders, however, support a comprehensive study on what it will take to repair City Hall or move elsewhere, but Campana, who has five months left in his term, asserts the council “studies issues to death” without taking action.

“City Hall has been neglected for decades,” Campana said, acknowledging part of these decades occurred during his time in office and saying he never received cooperation needed to get projects before council.

“Leaving is not an option,” he said. “It is cost-prohibitive and we need to do upgrades; we have the money.”

Campana said the city can pay for about $650,000 in repairs determined as top priorities by Reynolds Construction Management Inc. and Gannett-Fleming, among the firms making up the city construction team. The projects: An elevator modification, a ramp and security in the lobby.

But with a transition taking place in five months, some on council and those who might be in

the mayor’s seat think a cost analysis is needed.

“My opinion is we don’t do anything until we get accurate figures,” Councilman Derek Slaughter said. Slaughter, a Democrat, is running for mayor on Nov. 5.

His opponent, Eric Beiter, a businessman, said he’s also hesitant to spend borrowed capital and invest in a building which may not be suitable to work in.

“This is borrowed money,” Councilman Joel Henderson said. Henderson said he won’t seek reelection but said only priority projects should be budgeted.

Councilman Don Noviello said the handicapped accessibility is a priority but he can envision another building housing fire, police, codes, emergency medical technicians, a coroner, magistrate office, and possibly a forensic lab.

“Certainly costly, but it would surely end a number of problems of the city and county combined,” he said. “With more input, I think it should be up for serious thought.”

Noviello recalled how the academic center or former Klump building at his employer, Pennsylvania College of Technology was a wreck.

Fifty years ago, the Klump building, which served as a former high school, was ready to be condemned, he said. Today, it houses an auditorium and classes for college students.

A mishap with the bidding process set the city back at least a month and a half, said Councilwoman Liz Miele, chairwoman of council’s finance committee.

“She’s correct,” said Joseph Gerardi, city codes administrator.

If the bids are received and projects approved, the ramp alone would take until the end of November to be finished, he said.

“As long as we show good faith effort, the building should be okay and we won’t have to shut it down,” he said.

While the work is done, council may have to hold business at the nearby Trade and Transit Centre II, a modern and accessible building equipped with the latest in technology.

Also this week, Commissioner Rick Mirabito said he has had conversations with city officials regarding the Pine Street building.