WILLIAMSPORT – Interest in the sale of City Hall is growing, however the future remains uncertain as city leaders disagree on the plans for the building, which has been vacant for over six months.
Mayor Derek Slaughter sent out a request for proposals for realty services to evaluate the building and work with potential buyers. He added that tours have already begun and he has received a lot of interest in the potential re-use of the building.
“We’re looking to get it in the hands of a realtor at this point because we don’t have all the expertise in house that a realtor would,” Slaughter said. “At which point, we’ll look for proposals of an adaptive reuse (of the building) or whatever the proposals might be from interested parties.”
The move to sell came after two separate water leaks – one in August and another in December – damaged the building, resulting in poor air quality. This, coupled with anaray of other repair and renovation needs make it impossible for the city to afford restoring the structure, according to Slaughter.
Repair costs have been estimated between $6 million and $20 million.
“What we are looking at is the use of taxpayer dollars,” Slaughter said. “We don’t have $6 million sitting around to make those improvements.”
City Council President Adam Yoder is not convinced the building can’t be repaired and still used to house city government offices.
“It’s unfortunate that we are back in this situation. It’s unfortunate that we’re no closer to having any clue or clarity about what remediation looks like (or) on fixing a number of the unknown things that we identified in the ad hoc committee process,” Yoder said. “And it’s been a year since we adopted that.”
According to Slaughter, the internal work of fixing and renovating City Hall had to be stopped after it was condemned. He has said he didn’t want to start any significant projects within the building until after the option of putting it up for sale was considered.
Water leaks have been an issue in the past and “we always dealt with it,” he said. In addition, Yoder said the long-term savings of staying in City Hall would be worthwhile.
But, while the majority of city government is housed in the Trade & Transit buildings, Yoder said the lack of a permanent home for the police department is the biggest reason not to sell City Hall.
The city police now are in the former Peter Herdic Transportation Museum at 810 Nichols Place.
Lobbying efforts to move city government out of City Hall have been in the works for years; however, a decision was made early in 2021 to remain in the building, after it was evaluated by an ad hoc building committee.
Yoder pointed to this decision and said he is frustrated that the city administration is again pursuing an option to sell the building.
Slaughter said the water damage and a recent lawsuit requiring extensive ADA updates be made to the building were factors not considered in the ad hoc committee’s decision.
Despite this, Yoders said he still believes renovating and moving back into City Hall is the best option. Yoder said the historic nature of the buildings means there are external funding sources the city can use for repairs and renovations.
The ad hoc committee also decided that the city did not want to lease a building that was not owned by the city.
“It’s beneficial from a number of different aspects to own our own facility,” Yoder said.
Slaughter said he already has received a lot of interest in the purchase of City Hall. The deadline for realtors to submit proposals to the city is April 8. After this he will present a plan to city council.
“The realtor services contract would have to go before council for their review,” Slaughter said.