2 million reasons why City Hall’s future is murky
The estimated cost to get Williamsport City Hall adequately repaired is $2 million, according to the city’s codes administrator.
A significant portion of the money will need to be spent to bring the city into compliance with handicapped accessibility requirements. Advocates for the handicapped are preparing civil action against the city to make sure this embarrassing shortcoming is alleviated.
It seems to us that, long before the first drill bit is fired up for repairs, the city’s leaders need to decide whether city government belongs in the building it is currently occupying.
And that is a liberal use of the term occupying. There is a significant amount of space not being used by city government. The city’s transit and streets and parks headquarters are in the west end of Williamsport.
City Council is likely to form an ad hoc committee to examine the viability of remaining and repairing the building, or repairing what could be done to save the city money and then leaving, or leaving without making repairs.
We hope part of the calculus involves determining exactly how much square footage of space city government actually needs to operate. We suspect the building city government needs for operations is about half the size of what it currently operates in.
The former City Hall building on Pine Street was left by city government in the late 1970s, was repaired and modernized by private developers and has done quite well ever since. A similar scenario may very well be the best future for the present-day City Hall.
At the very least, Mayor-elect Derek Slaughter is correct that hard facts to all alternatives need to be examined before another dime is spent or borrowed for the building.