Muncy Township supervisors are considering three options for new offices
PENNSDALE – A dilemma has been presented to the residents of Muncy Township with the proposal of building a new facility or remodeling the existing township building in Pennsdale. The board of supervisors have reviewed two options that would require up to 1.8 million dollars. Elected officials are still deciding on that fiscal balance, at the same time thinking ahead and preventing any additional tax dollars to cover either project.
Earlier this month Supervisor Gregory Gilbert said this issue has been dealt with before and agreed to a feasibility study to investigate the two options. Supervisor Tom Schaech said, “We commissioned the study to the tune of about $21,000 at the fire company’s offering to give us some additional space on the ground floor of this structure.”
Remodeling would be more expensive than new construction according to Schaech who commented on the extra storage needed plus the increased needs of administration and law enforcement.
The new building, which would house the law enforcement and public works departments as well as administrative offices, would be comprised of a 6,800-square-foot garage and 3,350 square feet for offices. Police headquarters would have more security and will be separated from the public. This cost was estimated at 1.6 million.
The second option would be to retain the current site and renovate it to make it more functional, and this cost would be $1.8 million with an additional metal storage building. The building was constructed in the 1990s to house the fire department. Several years ago, the township took over the mortgage payments as it became more difficult for the fire company to cover the expenses. The township currently spends $54,000 a year on the mortgage. A new mortgage would be consolidated with the old.
The Muncy Township police department moved into the building from offices they had at the Lycoming Mall in 2000. Eventually, the township secretary, who had been working from her home, also moved into an office in the building.
Police Chief Chris McKibben said the move to the township building was never seen as a permanent move, not even from the beginning. “This isn’t anything new,” he said. “We’re running out of storage for files,” he said. “We don’t have enough storage for evidence. We can’t properly secure prisoners. We have no interview room. I can’t secure my facility.” The chief noted that there also is a problem with getting prisoners from the police car to his office.
Another justification, according to Schaech, is that the township is in the middle of the projected growth corridor created by the construction of the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway. Also 56 businesses have been added since 1999.
Because of the age of the current township building, there are certain things that will need to be replaced in the next few years, such as the roof, plumbing, heating and air conditioning, which were factored into the costs of remodeling. In addition, the construction of a facility for the public works department increased the projected costs for remaining at the current location.
“We have outgrown this facility and the ability to expand within this facility to a fiscally prudent standpoint,” Schaech said.
The township property on Quaker Church Road consists of five buildings that are in poor condition, according to the supervisors, who recently approved demolition of the residential structure at the site.
Schaech noted that from the time the property was purchased, the intent was to build a municipal complex there to house administrative offices and the public works department, but it never was acted on.
The four buildings that house the public works department were built in the 1950s and are in need of repair, with windows that are falling out and no running water. A portable toilet serves as the bathroom. Public works vehicles are stored in buildings that are not temperature-controlled. The floors are collapsing in some of the structures and there is an infestation of carpenter bees.
“The face of this township is changing, whether we like it or not. We have optioned this, discussed this and beat this into the pavement to look at every possible way to save every possible buck. We’re trying to do this on a very low cost, low impact, yet fulfill the needs of a changing municipality,” Schaech said.
A group of about 60 concerned and, at times, angry citizens attended the Muncy Township supervisors meeting on May 10 to voice their opinions about the two proposals the board is considering for expansion of township facilities. Schaech, board chair, introduced what he called a third option at the meeting.
He said, the township business offices and the police department would take over the second floor of the township building, which is currently used as the fire department’s banquet facility.
“We would take the second-floor area and repurpose it for law enforcement, township offices and a meeting room, storage and ancillary facilities as we had originally envisioned.”
Because the idea still is in the preliminary stages Schaech said there are no drawings for this new option. He noted that, in consulting the architect the ballpark figure for the project would run approximately the same cost at $1.8 million. The fire department would have to agree and minor issues need to be addressed. Some residents were vocal in their opposition to the projected cost of the project with a major concern of raised taxes to cover the project.
“Unless there’s a catastrophe, taxes won’t go up,” Schaech said.