Pittston City was awarded a $1.2 million low-interest loan Thursday that will pay for an elevator in City Hall and relocating the Police Department to the basement.
The building would then be fully handicapped accessible.
The terms of the $1,263,700 Community Facility Direct Loan allow for a 40-year repayment at 3.125 percent interest. The loan is being made available by the Rural Development sector of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Michael Lombardo, the city's former mayor, said there's a matter of public safety.
One night I was here at a Redevelopment Authority meeting on the first floor and the police were bringing this guy jacked up on bath salts, screaming and banging off the walls in the hallway, he said. We've got elderly people coming in here paying taxes. It's a dangerous situation.
City Hall was dedicated in 1940 and had some renovations done in the 1970s.
Currently, the first floor includes the city's administrative offices, treasurer's office, tax office and the police station and associated offices. The second floor houses the office of the Pittston magisterial judge, council chambers, which also serves as a courtroom, the mayor's office and the redevelopment authority office. The basement formerly housed the Pittston Memorial Library before it moved to its current home in 2000.
The plan is make the main entrance of City Hall to the left side of the building where the current wheelchair ramp is. The rear stairwell will become an elevator shaft and a new stairwell will be constructed alongside the old one. The police station would move to the basement. The city will do a space study to see what will move in the first floor space that housed police headquarters.
When the police department moves to the basement, it will go from 790 square feet to about 2,500 square feet, said Joe Moskovitz, Pittston City Manager.
The move would increase the space and create a configuration that is more functional for delivery of 21st century police services, Moskovitz said. It would add a degree of confidentiality as well.
Pittston Police Chief Robert Powers said after an arrest is made, a prisoner is escorted through most of City Hall.
Right now, we have to bring our prisoners in the main entrance, then take them down the steps to the holding cells, Powers said. Then we have to bring them back upstairs to our office then up another sets of stairs to the magistrate's office on the second floor to arraign them. Then back down again.
David Hines, the city's operations coordinator, showed off the building's deficiencies.
It's completely wasted space down here, Hines said, walking through the boxes piled in the basement. And there's no way of getting down here from upstairs because the stairwell is blocked.
In September, council voted to submit a $2 million loan/grant application to the United States Department of Agriculture for improvements to City Hall and to extend the Streetscape project on South Main Street from Market Street to Columbus Avenue.
That's important because it's a gateway street and also it completes the central business district, part of the Streetscape, Moskovitz has said. It would be part of the Streetscape. The city has plans for that block.
That block currently houses longtime Pittston City powerhouses the Gramercy Restaurant and Ballroom and Sabatelle's market.
We feel that it's important to finish the project by including that in the streetscape, Moskovitz said. The streetscape part of the loan is still being processed, he said.
Generally, Community Facility Direct Loans may be used to construct, enlarge, or improve community facilities for health care, public safety, and public services.
The city believes now is a good opportunity to take a long term investment in our headquarters, Moskovitz said. Upgrading is required to meet the needs of our community. We're investing in ourselves.