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Williamsport City Council to vote on city hall sale

Williamsport City Council stopped holding meetings at the building on 245 W. Fourth St. in January 2020. The city's remaining offices relocated in mid-2021.
Street View July 2023
Williamsport City Council stopped meeting at the building on 245 W. Fourth St. in January 2020. The city's remaining offices relocated in mid-2021. The vacant building is up for sale.

Williamsport City Council is expected to vote on the future of its former city hall building on Thursday.

The historic building at West Fourth and Hepburn Streets received three bids from private buyers – the highest coming from JBAS Realty at more than $550,000. On Sept. 28, Williamsport City Council is expected to either accept or reject that offer.

Mayor Derek Slaughter said, even if the building is sold, it can’t be knocked down or altered from the outside.

“It can’t be demoed and the exterior facade cannot be changed, so therefore, for the historical folks, the building will always remain and it will always look the same from the exterior,” Slaughter said in an interview with WVIA News. “You cannot change that, that’s a deed restriction.”

Some Williamsport residents still hope the building can remain a municipal meeting place. Gloria Miele, owner of a local historic building, said the decision to sell would be “short sighted,” maintaining that City Hall could be rehabbed into what she called “a source of pride” for locals.

The former city hall building hasn’t hosted council meetings since January 2020. That’s when a lawsuit was filed, citing a lack of ADA compliance at the building. Since then, city council has met at the city’s Trade and Transit Centre II. In 2021, water damage at city hall led Mayor Slaughter to relocate the rest of the city's offices, including the police department.

With preservationists hoping the city can fix up the building and move back in, Slaughter said, it’s not that easy. The city has an unclear financial position as they wait for previous audits, he said. Results of a 2019 audit will be shared at the next council meeting.

There are state and federal investigations into the misappropriation of funds by the city between 2009 and 2019. Slaughter said some of that missing money should have been set aside for repairs. In the short-term, continuing to use Trade and Transit Centre II is “the least expensive and most cost-effective path forward," he said.

“We just don’t see how it will be fiscally, logistically responsible and or possible to put millions of dollars into a 100-plus-year-old building when we just don’t need 40,000 square feet of space,” Slaughter said. “We can’t see how we’re going to have that amount of money to rehab that building.”

Residents like those who formed the “Save Williamsport City Hall” Facebook group, said they’ll still plead their case at the meeting to keep city hall a public meeting place.

John Basalyga, owner of JBAS Realty, previously said, if his bid is accepted, new development at the city hall building would likely include a mixed-use residential and commercial project.

Council will meet at 7 p.m. on Sept. 28 at Trade and Transit Centre II, 144 W. 3rd St., third floor.

Tom Riese is a multimedia reporter and the local host for NPR's Morning Edition. He comes to NEPA by way of Philadelphia. He is a York County native who studied journalism at Temple University.
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