Burned-out store to be razed in March

LOCK HAVEN — It’s coming down.

The burned-out former furniture store at 37-41 Bellefonte Ave., near the soldiers monument, should be razed by April 19.

City Council awarded the demolition contract Monday to the lower of two bidders, ADM Logistics Inc. of Port Carbon, for $64,499.

ADM Logistics has until March 1 to sign and return the contract. The project would then wait for 10 days, giving the state Department of Environmental Protection time to review it, if needed.

After that, demolition could start any time.

“We are excited that after 14 months, the burned-out building will be coming down,” Mayor William E. Baney III said. “The wrecking ball will commence in early March, and by the end of March that piece of land can then be marketed.”

The structure has been tested, and it turns out that no asbestos remediation work is needed, reported City Manager Gregory J. Wilson.

The highest demolition bid was $303,571 from Smith Excavating of Renovo Road, Mill Hall. Also bidding were Masters Excavating of Lock Haven, Lycoming Supply of Williamsport, Steinbacher Enterprises Inc. of Williamsport, and Smart Recycling Inc. of Dunmore.

A massive blaze destroyed the former store in December 2016, and the building has sat in its ruined condition, with no roof on the top floor, since then.

Demolishing it is a matter of public safety, Wilson said.

The building’s owners are Dave Mayes and Brian Osenbach. Although Mayes told the city after the fire that he was looking into more than one option for the building, an engineering report indicates the structure cannot be saved.

Over the years, the building held a Wolf’s Furniture store, a Heilig-Meyers Furniture store, and a store offering discounted home goods.

One year after the fire, the city gave Mayes and Osenbach a short deadline to do something. They did not meet that deadline, leaving the ball in the city’s court to raze the structure.

A lien will be placed against the property, so that when it is sold — sometime in the unknown future — the city will recover the taxpayer dollars spent on the project.

The demolition is likely to be a relief for pedestrians, drivers, and the general neighborhood where buildings are packed closely together. These other buildings were saved from the flames in 2016 by the heroic efforts of volunteer firefighters.

Also on Monday, City Council took the second and final vote required to make $150,000 available for the demolition costs by changing the general fund and capital escrow fund budgets.

GRANT PROJECTS

Council approved going for a Pennsylvania Small Water and Sewer Program grant for $246,500. The city wants to stop the expense of using treated drinking water for cleaning sewage treatment basins at the new treatment plant.

The plan is to install a utility water system that would divert some of the treated wastewater from the plant, just before that water enters Bald Eagle Creek.

The treated wastewater could be used to clean the basins sewage is treated in, for other janitorial purposes, and to flush sewer lines throughout the city.

Currently the plant gets all of its water from the water filtration plant, just like any other business does, Wilson said. But if the plant could intercept and use the treated wastewater it creates, it would cut down on the use of drinking water and also save the sewer rate-payers money at the same time, he said.

“It’s kind of a waste to use flouride-treated water to wash out a sewage tank,” he said.

He also called the idea “a good use of a natural resource.”

The grant, if it is awarded, would require the city to pay a 15 percent share — $43,500 — from the sewer fund reserves.

Other grants sought are: $4,000 in Clinton County Liquid Fuels Aid toward the county’s 25 percent share of the lights on Route 220 and Paul Mack Boulevard; a grant from the Walmart Community Foundation to replace a broken AED defibrillator for the police department, with a total cost of $1,348; and a Williams Atlantic Sunrise Grant of $10,000 to replace four desktop computers for the police department.

Council approved a $79,906 contract for J.B. Gibbons Construction Inc. of Williamsport to install new windows at Ross Library, 232 W. Main St. The cost will be covered, in part, by a Keystone grant.

The other bidders were Bryertech LLC of Lock Haven and Veronesi Building of State College.

ON THE BOOKS

A new law is headed for the city books. It prohibits urinating (and defecating) in public.

It may seem only common sense that someone should be arrested for this behavior, but it is best to have everything spelled out when a case goes in front of the magisterial district judge.

The fine is to be at least $250 for the first offense and $500 for a subsequent offense, plus court costs.

The city based its proposed ordinance on the one for State College, and council gave its first vote of approval Monday. The second vote will take place at council’s next meeting, Monday, March 5 at 7 p.m. in City Hall. The public will have a chance to comment.

“This has been something that the city police have been lobbying for, for some time,” the mayor said.

He added he is happy the new city manager brought it to council’s attention and it has been approved on first reading.

In the past, he said, people caught doing this were subject to “an interpretation of the law.”

He said, “Many times the city police would do their due diligence, only to find out that the fine, if any at all, was just a few dollars back to the city.”

Council also voted for higher fines for false alarms. A second vote is required on this, also.

The first two false alarms in a calendar year would not carry any penalty. But the penalties would be raised from $25 to $50 for the third false alarm, to $100 for the fourth one, and to $200 for the fifth one.

The purpose is to give local businesses an incentive to correct errors with alarm systems, Wilson said, thus decreasing the frequency of false alarms and increasing the response time of property owners reacting to alarms.

This would be the first time in 28 years that these fines have increased, Wilson said.

PLANNING

The city is taking a first step toward a new comprehensive plan that should outline city needs and ways to meet them.

That first step is to create a five-year financial plan, and council approved doing that.

“Financial analysis is a good way to find out how secure your financial standing is, and to look at long-term goals and be able to filter them through whatever financial resources you have available to meet them,” the city manager said.

The financial plan also should indicate the best use of tax dollars and what the rates should be for water and sewer customers, he said.

The city has been talking with the state Department of Community and Economic Development and expects to receive a grant for half the cost of writing a five-year financial plan.

Proposals to write it are due back April 13, and council is expected to award a contract after that. The plan should be completed in July.

As the comprehensive plan is being written, the city will get input from a diverse set of residents representing many different needs, Wilson said.

“We will hear a lot of ideas,” he said, “and it will be good to know what we can invest and what resources we have that we can bring to bear.”

OTHER MATTERS

William Mincer was named a city representative to the Ross Library Board of Trustees. There is still one vacancy on that board, and any interested Lock Haven resident is eligible to be appointed. Interested residents should call City Hall at 570-893-5900 to be considered.

Also open is a seat on the city’s planning commission, and interested Lock Haven residents should contact City Planner Maria Boileau about it, at the same number.

The elected positions of judge of elections for the First and Second wards of Lock Haven are vacant, as are both the majority and minority inspector of election positions for each of the five wards. City residents interested in these positions should contact the Clinton County office of voter registration, (570-893-4019) to be considered for temporary appointment.

Wilson updated council on staffing changes, including the fact that four current applicants for the sewer operator position are being brought in for interviews.

In the police department, Cpl. Richard Simpson will begin an 84-day stint as acting sergeant, effective March 26. Simpson and acting detective Timothy Moyer will share a rank, but the City’s intent is to see the once-combined position split into two separate positions, allowing for increased efficiency and effectiveness, Wilson said. To accommodate the change, one corporal position will be eliminated, reducing the total number of corporals from four to three.

There is currently a vacancy in the corporal position, and the Civil Service Commission has scheduled testing for it on March 8.

Council also approved the final extension of the contract with Baker Tilly for the city’s financial audit. It will cost $42,450, a 2 percent increase over the previous year.

On Tuesday, Feb. 20, cleaning service bids were opened. Seven companies were contacted about cleaning City Hall, and two submitted bids: Kohen Cleaning of Lock Haven and Advance Professional Cleaning of Jersey Shore. The latter had the apparent low bid of $17,820 per year.

If council approves the contract, the city can eliminate a part-time position and save about $11,700, Wilson said. The last person in that position resigned recently to take a job with the state, he said, and the position remains vacant.

Jazz festival slated for Aug. 17, 18

LOCK HAVEN — Steve Getz, director of the Lock Haven Jazz and Arts on Main Street Festival, asked for and received City Council’s support Monday for the 2018 JAMS Festival, set for Friday and Saturday, Aug. 17 and 18.

East Main Street from Jay to Grove Street will be closed on that Saturday for festival events, as it was last year, and free parking elsewhere downtown is granted for that day.

Council also gave permission for the BPO Elks Lodge 182 to sell beverages outdoors, just as it did for the 2017 festival, and for a banner to hang across Main Street advertising the event, starting July 20 (providing that PennDOT approves it).

The Art and All That Jazz Reception is slated for Durrwachter Conference Center at Lock Haven University on Friday, Aug. 17, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., Getz reported. Also, the festival’s free student jazz workshop is being planned.

On Saturday, Aug. 18, outdoor arts and craft vendors will open at 10 a.m. and music will start at 11 a.m., an hour earlier this year.

Dr. Eddie Severn is again the creative director for the festival.

The JAMS Festival is partnering with the City of Lock Haven Free Concert Series again, to present a special concert that Saturday at the Corman Amphitheatre. The concert will start earlier this year, at 5:30 p.m.

Evening jazz performances at five indoor venues will be on a staggered schedule, starting with at least one during the amphitheatre concert, Getz said. Two of the five venues will be alcohol-free to encourage families to attend.

The bands for the weekly concerts in the city’s summer concert series have been selected, Lock Haven Mayor William E. Baney III reported, and the dates are being worked out now. The series should be announced next month, the mayor said

COMMENTS