As the city grapples with what to do with the multimillion-dollar solution of the doomed City Hall, Commerce and Transit Centers I and II remain viable options for continued city government operations, according to city officials.
Today, the Joseph McDade Trade and Transit Center I at West Third and Pine Streets and the Trade and Transit Center II are the current headquarters of the city’s administration, including the Chief of Police, Chief deputy and captain and other employees because of the conviction. of the town hall damaged by rain in July.
These buildings were built several years apart, but each was built using mostly state and federal transportation money.
They have proven to be safe and accessible places for municipal government to operate and conduct business and for non-profit organizations to have their headquarters.
Trade and Transit Center II was funded primarily by investments of $8.8 million from the United States Federal Transit Administration, while the State Department of Transportation (PennDOT) contributed $5. $8 million and $416,528 came from local contributions, according to grant receipts in records obtained from the state Department of Transportation.
A total of $15.1 million in federal, state and local investments went into Trade and Transit Center II, according to PennDOT Records.
“The Trade and Transit Buildings I and II, which were constructed with state and federal transportation dollars, have proven invaluable to the downtown business district in a way that goes to the beyond the obvious of being a public transport hub”, said veteran councilor Randall J. Allison, former chairman of the council.
“They also provide much needed space for organizations such as Uptown Music Collective, Community Theater League and formerly the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce.
“There are larger and smaller rooms that can accommodate meetings for public purposes including seminars, conferences, intergovernmental uses, etc., as well as private rental options.”
The conjunction of the two transit buildings, the parking deck, the parking addition in the lot behind Trade and Transit II, the Lycoming County Courthouse, and the county-owned Third Street Building transformed the intersection of Pine and West Third Street aesthetically and functionally adding to the cohesion of downtown.
“I’m sure they will serve our city and region very well for years to come,” Allison said.
Funding for the construction of Trade and Transit Center II began arriving in 2009, when River Valley Transit received $1.9 million in federal funds, followed by $400,000 in PennDOT cash and $79,904 in local contribution for $2.3 million, according to PennDOT records obtained by the Sun-Gazette.
The largest capital investment came only in 2013, when the federal government provided $4 million, the state $833,500 and the local contribution was $166,500, records show.
In 2014, $170,385 was invested in Trade and Transit II, with the bulk coming from PennDOT, and a year later the building received $2.6 million in federal funds, $3.7 million in state funds. State, $156,113 from local funds.
The last years to invest in the property were 2016 and 2017. Federal funding in those two years was $282,792, while PennDOT contributed $703,197 and local contribution was $14,011, records show.
Commerce and Transit Center I was built in 1999/2000 with PennDOT and FTA funds.
Alexis Campbell, press secretary at PennDOT in Harrisburg, said the department could not immediately recoup the full investment for the McDade property.
City Hall repair costs are estimated at $6 million and more. Rain in a leaky roof in July caused heavy damage.
The air ventilation system that could spit out mold spores and the horrible smell caused Mayor Derek Slaughter to decide, after receiving a letter from Joseph Gerardi, the city’s code administrator, that it was unhealthy for the public and employees to stay inside the building, said Norman Lubin. , city attorney.
The Streets and Parks Department spent the late summer and early fall moving filing cabinets and equipment, using city trucks, to transfer personal effects and work equipment employees in the new office spaces.
Voices and actions of the past
Now 80, former mayor Phillip E. Preziosi, who served as mayor from 1992 to 1996, said he hoped for the best for Slaughter and the administration and could see his need to use the transit facilities and to get employees, including police, out of City Hall.
Under Preziosi, the germination of the idea of the first commercial and transit center in the city center was born.
Although it was completed under administration when Mayor Steven W. Cappelli (1996-2000) was in office, Preziosi said the concept was the brainchild of his chief financial officer, William E. Nichols Jr. , who was City’s chief executive. Bus, the predecessor of River Valley Transit.
Nichols was fired by Slaughter days after Slaughter was sworn in.
“We thought it was the right thing to do at the time,” Preziosi spoke of building a transit building to serve more bus riders and be the focal point of a city center he said was suffering losses due to the popularity of the Lycoming Mall and other stores.
Those days are long gone as the mall continues to lose stores and nears closure. Back then, however, the city’s merchants and business community had to shift gears.
“The mall had taken away a lot of business from our merchants,” said Preziosi.
“Nichols was a master at getting grants, as was his team of people,” he said.
The facility was named after the late U.S. Representative Joseph McDade, whose connections helped bring in federal transit grants and other helpful grants.
The condition of City Hall – even before the most recent damage – was suspect, as Preziosi described a collapse of the floor beneath his watch.
A day before Christmas vacation, the entire upper floor collapsed due to the weight of filing cabinets above the Sechler meeting room on the second floor, Preziosi said.
It was a situation that could have resulted in injury or worse, but luckily the holiday party broke down before the collapse happened, he said.
McDade was notified of the collapse and, through his relationship with Nichols, was able to secure emergency funding to repair City Hall, Preziosi said.
Cappelli also recalled how, in 1999, River Valley Transit’s predecessor, City Bus, carried an average of 3,800 passengers a day and saw an almost 20% annual increase in ridership.
Construction of a 34,000-square-foot flatiron-style building (Trade and Transit I) began upon receipt of a federal grant, Cappelli said.
The building resembled a corner, with one side accommodating bus passengers and offices at the entrance from the Third Street side.
The building was completed, largely, by the city with funds from PennDOT and the Federal Transit Administration, Cappelli said.
“One of the contingencies for receiving the federal transit dollars was that the building would have to provide space for non-profit organizations, which it did with the Community Theater League which leased space, as did Williamsport/Lycoming County Chamber of Commerce, said Capelli.
The building was part of plans for the city center which was on the verge of renaissance, he said.
At the time, city and county leaders considered ways to bring businesses downtown. These ideas led to the formation of the Greater Williamsport Alliance in 2001 and the “main partners”, a group of visionaries who were influential in their day in government, business and the chamber of commerce.
Our Towns 2010, a non-profit organization whose goal was to articulate – with community support – a county-wide vision, including the integration of art and culture into designs and future plans, was also involved, Cappelli said.
During this period, many people had their say as PennDOT redesigned and replaced the Market Street Bridge.
The McDade Building was the headquarters of the Williamsport/Lycomng Chamber of Commerce until 2015, when the chamber moved to the bank building at West Fourth and Pine streets, Cappelli said.
As the discussion continues on what to do with City Hall, the city administration and council need to consider whether the rent they pay and the maintenance they will need to perform on transportation facilities in common outweigh the costs it will take to repurpose City Hall for government use. .
At the same time, the city is awaiting the outcome of a statewide grand jury investigation and an investigation by criminal agents with Attorney General Josh Shapiro into the use of state and federal grants. by the former management of River Valley Transit.
“That’s a shame,” Preziosi spoke about the damage to City Hall and the investigation into the handling of grants and finances by the previous administration. “Hope everything works out.”