How many public safety buildings are really needed?
Plans are in the works for public safety buildings in three communities in Lycoming County, and the county also is taking steps for a facility of its own.
On the surface, this type of facility makes sense. And in some cases, such as in the Jersey Shore area, an upgrade is absolutely necessary. There, the Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police have outgrown a building that was designed for a smaller force than what the regional entity has become. Tiadaghton, which serves the western end of geographically large Lycoming County, has grown to provide services to multiple townships.
Simply put, there is not enough space in Tiadaghton’s original building. Plans are evolving to combine Jersey Shore borough offices with new space for the regional police, which could continue to grow. It has explored additional partnerships with other townships. While nothing has come of those conversations, it would be foolish to rule out the possibility. Regionalization has proven to be effective for Tiadaghton and is the smartest way for communities far removed from the state police barracks to gain a more readily available police presence.
In South Williamsport, where the borough police have joined forces with DuBoistown to provide service, it appears to be more of a modernization that would also incorporate borough offices.
In Williamsport, officials are talking with UPMC Williamsport about locating a new facility near the hospital and bringing police, fire and codes under one roof.
And in the Newberry section of the city, the county is eyeing a real estate purchase to provide its own public safety building with space for the county coroner, a central processing center and a DUI center.
Overall, the idea of placing entities devoted to maintaining public safety under one roof makes sense.
But we cannot help but question the county’s desire to buy another piece of real estate to open its own facility instead of participating with municipalities to establish public safety buildings without removing yet another property from the tax rolls.
Before that happens, we would like to see the county address its wealth of properties, many of them underused, and perhaps sell some of them and return them to the tax rolls.
Too many tax-exempt properties become a burden on the taxpayers who are expected to fund government services. This has become particularly vexing in Williamsport, the seat of county government and the heart of life for all of the county.
It’s not just government buildings but all sorts of tax-exempt entities — churches, charities, schools and hospitals — that are concentrated in Williamsport.
While these all are extremely valuable in service of the greater good, we also cannot afford to just keep removing properties from the tax rolls without concern for the overall impact. After all, it’s just one more property.
It’s just one more straw on the proverbial camel’s back.