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Despite lack of space, county to use new annex

January 02, 2001

Despite lack of space, county to use new annex



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


Two weeks after being told a $1.1 million building purchased for use as a Washington County government annex didn't have enough space to house three departments, the County Commissioners voted Tuesday to move the departments there anyway.

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The vote on the motion by Commissioner William Wivell was 4-1 with only Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger opposed.

The decision to move the departments into the building came after several options were rejected.

"It is too bad we bought a building that was too small," County Commissioner John L. Schnebly said. "We should let people who recommended that sleep in their own bed."

"I am as disappointed as everyone else of how this has transpired," said Iseminger of the 1.45-acre former Community Supermarket building at 80 W. Baltimore Street.

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Before voting in March to pay about $1.1 million for a building to serve as an annex, the County Commissioners were told the 12,500-square-foot building had enough space to house the county engineering, planning and permits and inspection departments. All three departments currently operate out of the third floor of the County Administration Building on West Washington Street.

At a Dec. 19 meeting, Public Works Director Gary Rohrer and County Administrator Rodney Shoop, who had recommended buying the Baltimore Street building, said there was a problem.

The new annex building has enough space to meet the needs of the three departments for three to five years, but not for 10 years, the period that Shoop and Rohrer would prefer, Shoop said.

They suggested:

-- Move only the planning and permits departments into the Baltimore Street building.

-- Move the engineering department employees and Rohrer's three-person Public Works office into the 11,300-square-foot office building used by the Water and Sewer Department near Williamsport, off Md. 63.

A motion to that effect made by Iseminger died for lack of a second.

That proposal followed the narrow defeat, by a 2-3 vote, of a proposal to sell the new building for a minimum $1.1 million and move the engineering department to the Water and Sewer offices. Voting to sell the building were Commissioners Wivell and Paul L. Swartz.

Under the adopted proposal to move all three departments into the annex, available space at the water and sewer office would be rented out.

A tenant of the water and sewer building, American Advance Computers, moved out recently, which helped spark Rohrer's proposal.

During the two-hour discussion, the commissioners made several criticisms.

When the commissioners were shown a proposed layout of the Baltimore Street annex, Schnebly asked why there were no options showing all three departments there.

He later said, "I guess my question would be: Do we have it right this time?"

When Rohrer did not respond, Iseminger said, "I'm not any happier about that then you are, John."

Rohrer, contacted after meeting, had no comment. Shoop could not be reached for comment after the meeting.

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