The Pittston City Hall renovation project can’t come soon enough.
In addition to the planned renovations, City Hall is experiencing unplanned issues that may expand the project.
City Council last week approved a $7,850 emergency bid to Brandon Balchune Construction of Duryea to remove and replace the handicapped ramp on the side of City Hall.
The ramp is currently blocked off with yellow caution tape, said City Administrator Joe Moskovitz.
“About a month ago, we noticed some of the cement falling away underneath,” Moskovitz said. He said the city engineer did an inspection and determined there was a flaw in the original concrete pour.
Additionally, the 65-year-old furnace is failing and the portico section of the façade is crumbling.
The antiquated oil furnace, which dates to the 1950s, could cost $40,000 to $50,000 to replace with a similar model that operates in the same fashion. But Moskovitz said it may be in the city’s best interest to rethink how the building is heated and cooled and design something customized.
“Long term, we only get one bite at the apple,” Moskovitz said. “We’re not predisposed to just replacing the existing heating system. We want to find the most efficient way to heat and cool the entire building. We’re not sure what the solution is yet. We’ll be looking at what’s most cost effective and energy efficient.”
The furnace heats the entire building. There is also a unit on the roof that provides additional heating and cooling for the second floor.
“We want to look at options that have the highest degree of efficiency,” Moskovitz said. “We want 95 percent efficient. The one we have is maybe 75 to 80 percent efficient.”
He said a gas unit will likely be better for the city in the long run.
The portico section of the building’s façade is in need of repairs and a tarp is presently wrapped around it.
“The roof of it doesn’t drain adequately and it needs to be retooled,” Moskovitz said. The façade may need to be re-pointed.
Moskovitz said the city is in the planning stages of a major City Hall renovation project.
Part of a $1.2 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan will pay for an elevator attached to the rear stairwell that will make the building handicapped accessible. The project could become a $2 million project if the new issues, such as the furnace and facade, are addressed.
City Hall was dedicated in 1940 and had some renovations done in the 1970s.
Currently, the first floor includes the city’s administrative offices, treasurer’s office, tax office and the police station and associated offices. The second floor houses the office of the Pittston magisterial judge, council chambers, which also serves as a courtroom, and the redevelopment authority suite. The basement formerly housed the Pittston Memorial Library before it moved to its current home in 2000.
The plan is make the main entrance of City Hall to the left side of the building where the current wheelchair ramp is located. The rear stairwell will become an elevator shaft and a new stairwell will be constructed alongside the old one. The police station would move to the basement. The department will increase from 790 square feet to about 2,500 square feet.
The city hopes to attract a tenant, perhaps a state office, into the space that will be vacated by the police department.
Moskovitz said city, police and magistrate offices need to be updated with a goal to make City Hall “21st century usable.”