Monday, June 19, 2017

Borough Hall is out of space - What's the answer?

A public meeting was held June 14 at Columbia's municipal building 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. Several borough representatives at the meeting claimed that the borough has outgrown its current headquarters at 308 Locust Street and that operations are being hampered due to lack of space. Several council members were present at the meeting, but only one school board representative, Charles Leader, was there. Only a handful of residents attended.

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.

 Lutz said he has talked to our legislators about a potential move, and they thought it was a good idea. He said that if we cut costs, we can show legislators what we've done on our own before asking for financial help. A barrier to consolidation is Luther Care, a child care organization, which occupies a part of the DAC. Lutz said he had heard Luther Care is looking to move out, but Leader said he didn't know anything about them leaving. Leader added that space at the DAC is tight also.

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 was frowned upon due to the nearby rail lines with trains that could hinder police response time. A resident expressed disapproval about the possibility of 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 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. A resident asked about the costs associated with the move (renovations, etc.) and was told that would be part of a feasibility study. Lutz said the cost of such a study is $10-15,000. Other public meetings will be held before any decision is made, to get citizen input.


Anonymous said...

NO. NO. NO. DO NOT MOVE TO DAC......they are gonna force them to consolidate. and there's NO room there either. cola #1 could have an alternate road out the rear of the bldg that goes to Bank Ave. Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

I heard that 360 Chestnut might be coming back on the market soon - it could be a temporary solution for the codes department and give some more parking for Judge Bixler's office which is always jammed up.

Anonymous said...

Ummm.... it would have to cross over the exact same rail line (just a few hundred feet up the tracks). So, no, problem not solved.

Anonymous said...

or the police department so they can walk to all of the hearings !

Anonymous said...

If the building is jammed because of too many code officers -wouldn't an easier and far more economic answer be to just get rid of those officers? Time for this boro to slim down some.

Anonymous said...

Keep police department there, move all rest to Fire house.