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Renovation may be key for Pa. complex

June 17, 2007

To the editor:

In the May 30 Morning Herald there was a report about a recent Washington Township (Pa.) meeting to discuss development concepts and planning for a new municipal complex here in the township. Evidently there was some serious acrimony and tempers flared as to the need for such a facility and the impact such a facility would have, potentially, on all taxpayers here in Washington Township.

It appears to the casual observer that Washington Township is looking to spend millions of dollars for a suitable facility, based on an analysis of what facility requirements would be needed in the next 10 to 15 years. Much of the same analysis was used to advocate a massive complex for the Greencastle, Pa., area only to be challenged by the taxpayers as too extravagant for so few people who would occupy a new facility.

Prior to retirement, I was fortunate to have been assigned a major lead in the Navy department's efforts to consolidate and relocate a large number of people (5,000) to the Washington Navy Yard in lieu of the Navy continuing to lease space in the Crystal City area of Arlington County, Va.

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We had conducted similar studies to examine the needs and feasibility of building a new facility (on a much grander scale than the township) but nonetheless concluded that it was far more cost-effective and timely to rehab vacant space then to dedicate limited resources to an outright new design/new facility.

We then pursued and ultimately finalized plans to rehab vacant "gun factory" warehouses at the Navy yard. This alternative proved to be very cost-effective and addressed all of the Navy's needs well into the 21st century - all at a price that was 50 percent less than what could be replicated through new construction. The new rehabbed space had the latest technology incorporated into the facilities design to satisfy high-technology requirements well above what the Navy felt was needed for the immediate future.

I bring this concept up simply because, as a taxpayer in this township, it would seem more cost-effective to have the planners examine the utility of rehabbing the soon-to-be-vacated Landis Tool Company site, where sufficient space and property is already available and could easily be adapted to meet more than the township needs at a very attractive cost.

Also, if the township planners would think about it, don't stop at satisfying their immediate needs for the township, but hold an option open to rehab some additional space that could be offered as an incentive for new business to consider locating in part of the complex (much as the Navy has done) at an attractive lease cost.

Planning for growth in this fashion would more than offset the expected demise of Landis, while using this potentially new revenue source to offset the administrative costs of running the township facilities. Of course there will always be the naysayers who would want "new" rather than old, but I can honestly say it proved to be a winner for the Navy when it did finally move into its new (rehabbed) facility.

I can assure you that what the Navy started with was far worse than the Landis facility, so the typical feedback of "it's too old, too big, and of poor design" just doesn't fly. The Navy started with early 1800s warehouses that served as buildings (warehouses) to fabricate and overhaul Navy 16-inch gun barrels and ended up in a multi-floored facility with fiber optics systems and the latest communications technologies to meet the needs of a modern Navy.

On a lesser scale, it can be done here in Waynesboro at a significantly reduced cost similar to what the Navy experience has shown. Just think what this alternative could do to help revitalize a town center as it once was. High-paying jobs would be the norm rather than the rarity here in Waynesboro, as new lease space would compete with our neighbors at an attractive cost. Plan the rehab to accommodate future growth and base expansion from what the township will require based upon what the business community needs. Such a concept, from my vantage point, is a win-win for all the taxpayers in this township.

James Salko
Waynesboro, Pa.

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