By LaKeshia Knarr
LOCK HAVEN –While the newly purchased building at the Piper complex won’t be fully utilized for at least another year and a half, the county is already finding ways to use available spaces there.
Tomorrow evening, the Clinton County Planning Commission will meet in an available conference room in the three-story facility formerly known as the “blue building,” the former Piper Aircraft Corporation headquarters located at 100 Mercer Drive. Now gray, the exterior was at one time blue and it features dozens of large windows on all sides. The lot includes 233 parking spaces and the 32,561 square foot building has a wrap-around porch area.
Providing a tour of the facility, Clinton County Commissioner Jeff Snyder described the planned layout and benefits of the relocation.
The goal is to relocate about 75 county employees to that building, freeing up space in the Clinton County Courthouse and the Garden Building on Main Street, and ultimately reducing costs associated with renting space for county services.
There will be a secure entrance to the first floor and receptionist to help direct visitors throughout the building, as well as the county treasurer’s office, a conference room, a break room and the CYS finance offices. The county intends to hire one full-time armed deputy to guard the entrance as well, Snyder said.
The second floor will accommodate the Children and Youth Services staff – all under one roof. Some of the CYS staff works out of the Garden Building, while others work at a rented space at 8 N. Grove St. Once the relocation takes place, the county will no longer be renting any spaces for county services, Snyder noted.
In addition, the second floor will also house the county Planning, Assessment and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) departments, the Register and Recorder’s office and the main conference room used for commissioner meetings.
The commissioners’ offices will be located on the third floor, alongside the chief clerk’s office, human resources, voter registration, accounting/payroll., and a meeting/break room.
Snyder envisions seating and eating space on the patio near the first floor break area and said he would really like to provide a safe outdoor space available to families visiting each other at CYS.
The building purchase and closing costs totaled $972,000 and included large-scale equipment – such as an automatic natural gas generator, Commissioner Snyder said.
Previous owners spent more upgrading the facility than the county paid to purchase it, he said.
While Davis Insurance, LLC continues to operate out of the building, the county has already begun work retrofitting the spaces for its own needs. Davis Insurance has a lease that runs through March 1, 2018, and is now planning to relocate to a building it owns at 208 E. Church St. The county will work around them, Snyder said, adding that he doesn’t believe it should pose any problems.
The commissioners earmarked $130,000 toward renovations and $89,000 for security in the 2017 Capital Projects Bond, Snyder said, and county staff will handle much of the work.
County offices could populate the facility before year’s end, Snyder noted. Although he doesn’t believe the building will be fully functional for about a year and a half, his goal is to have Children and Youth Services operating out of the Piper complex building before 2018 so a new lease is not needed at the rented facility. Renting that space costs about $1,900 a month, Fiscal Accountant Angela Black said.
The overall plan also includes the relocation of the Clinton County Conservation District. The county intends to sell the building currently being used at 45 Cooperation Lane, Mill Hall. Snyder said the county spends about $420,000 a year for that space; although half of that is reimbursed by the Conservation District. Noting the Conservation District has been saving money towards the purchase of a new building, he said he hopes they will consider reallocating those funds toward programming.
Once county offices leave the Garden Building and Courthouse, the plan is to shift the District Attorney’s office from the first floor of the Garden Building to the Courthouse and fill that floor with the Conservation District, Penn State Extension and external auditor offices. The county Probation office would move from the second floor to the third floor, allowing the Domestic Relations department to utilize the entire second floor.
“It’s just a good fit. Plus, you’re going to start saving money,” said Snyder. “It’s not just about moving to a new building. It’s about moving and providing the best service we can for the constituents.”
The county was out of options and needed to look for space, and the former blue building will give it room to grow and provide functional, confidential services to residents, he said.
The commissioners sought input from county employees who would be impacted by the move, Snyder said, and most of them have already received a tour of the site.
The building was on the market for five years, Commissioner Paul Conklin noted.
“If you think of going forward, what would have moved in here?” he asked, somewhat rhetorically. Answering it, he said he believed there aren’t many businesses that can fill that amount of space and the building could have otherwise fallen into disrepair.
Snyder, referring to some grumblings about county employees no longer being within close proximity of downtown establishments at lunchtime, said he hopes downtown restaurants will consider offering delivery services to diversify their offerings.
The Planning Commission’s meeting is the second gathering to be held at the new building, Snyder noted. Last month, the county held a re-entry program meeting at the facility.