Borough officials claim that the borough has outgrown its current headquarters at 308 Locust Street and operations are being hampered due to lack of space. Two other locations are currently being considered that will allow for expansion: 200 North 5th Street and 430 Walnut Street.
200 North 5th Street
430 Walnut Street
200 North 5th Street is currently the Columbia Borough School District Administration Center, and 430 Walnut Street, formerly home to the Lucas Manufacturing Company, is now owned by Columbia developer Don Murphy.
The borough has considered the possibility of a move for several months. A public meeting was held June 14, 2017 at Borough Hall to discuss the feasibility of consolidating the borough offices, police department and school district offices in one building - the District Administration Center - as a Columbia Borough Government Center. The DAC now houses only school district employees and operations.
At the meeting, Mayor Leo Lutz said there is not enough room for borough operations at the municipal building. "We're constantly juggling things around," he said. Lutz said the records room was outgrown 16 years ago and now contains two offices out of necessity.
Councillor Mary Wickenheiser said the borough needs extra space due to added services: codes, clerks, etc. "There are more people working in this building," she said. Codes manager Steve Kaufhold said his department needs more space, because the borough is no longer using third-party inspectors. He said seven codes employees are now using a 12 x 12 area.
Council president Kelly Murphy said, "We're upping our game, especially with codes. We've got the whole building crammed to the max." He noted that moving to the DAC is just an option. "This is the first discussion," Murphy said. "We're looking at options." He said the borough is looking for "the most bang for the buck" and that other sites will also be considered. There is no deadline for a move yet, he said. Murphy added that if either entity (borough or school district) says no to the idea, there will not be any animosity.
Moving to the former Columbia No. 1 Fire Company building on Front Street was discussed but ultimately frowned upon due to the nearby rail lines with trains that could hinder police response time. A resident expressed disapproval about the possibility of having holding cells in the DAC. Lutz said the police department does not need to be in the same building as the borough offices.
Parking concerns for additional personnel at the DAC were discussed. Lutz asked if the borough could lease parking spaces from the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, whose building is nearby.
Lutz also said another advantage to consolidating is financial. "What can we do to help the taxpayer?" he asked. He said the project won't move forward without a funding scheme.
Don Murphy said he is open to a move to his Walnut Street building. "I welcome the opportunity to work with the borough on the possibility of relocating to my location as I feel it would better suit their long-term needs for police, codes, and municipal government," he said in a statement provided to Columbia Spy today.
[Information from a June 19, 2017 Columbia Spy post was incorporated into this article.]