Thursday, April 05, 2012

Northampton County Finally Has An Archives Building ... Again

By a 5-2 vote, Northampton County Council last night approved the purchase of its own archives building in Forks Township, instead of continuing to pay rent for a facility in Allentown, 22-miles away. Lamont McClure and Tom Dietrich, made the "now is not the time" argument. Bob Werner made the "If not now, when?" argument. Werner's argument persuaded John Cusick, Ken Kraft, Peg Ferraro and Scott Parsons. Bruce Gilbert and Barb Thierry were absent.

Located at 999 Conroy Place, the County will pay will pay $750,000 to Edwin Stipe for the building, which sits on an acre. The County will also have to retrofit the building, although administration officials are considering a Guaranteed Energy Savings contract to minimize cost.

Stipe paid $430,000 for the building and land when he purchased it in 2000.

Since he was first elected in 2006, Executive John Stoffa has been trying to find a home for the County archives. Below are excerpts of what he told Council last night.

"Since our former archives building was torn down approximately eight yeas ago, we have spent $1 million in rent. We spend $120,000 per year in rent. Basically, this has given us a roof over our records, but not much more.

"Our records are in Allentown, 22-miles away, and we need at least 48-hours notice to visit and review the records. The building in Allentown is in a flood zone.

"Our office across the street is cramped and is not handicapped-accessible.

"We've looked at least thirty different buildings and feel we have located an ideal structure at 999 Conroy Place in Forks Tp, four miles from the Courthouse. The purchase rice is $750,000 for 9,750 sq. ft. The land is approximately one acre, close to Rute 33, has 24 parking spaces and is handicapped-accessible. olice and fire departments are within one mile of the facility.

"Not only is this an opportunity to acquire a building which will escalate in value, but it is an opportunity for us to begin scanning, microfilming and digitizing our records.'

Stoffa indicated there are $860,000 in a "records improvement fund," which is based on a fee charged when documents are recorded. So there's enough money to buy the building, but Stoffa estimated the cost of improvements at $1.45 million.

Stoffa urged Council to approve the purchase so that the County's records "can get the attention and care they deserve."

Businessman Andy Daub, a car dealer with a sense of history, echoed Stoffa's sentiments. He told Council that some of its recorded instruments are deeds from the Penn Brothers, and need better security.

Virginia Hope came on behalf of her husband, local historian Richard Hope. Handicapped, Richard has great difficulty accessing the current archives office, and often has to wait several days to review records.

The only citizen to speak against the purchase was West Easton's Tricia Mezzacappa. Clad in luminescent green pants, she inched her way to the podium with 6" high heels and accused the Stoffa administration of being "very irresponsible."

I see.

As a title searcher, I can tell you this is needed.  In 2004, the County had the finest archives building in the state. It was a source of pride to County officials, especially when other counties called for tours. But Executive Glenn Reibman ordered its demolition for a prison expansion. Maurice Dimmick, the County's archivist at the time, welled up in tears as a wrecking ball did its dirty work. So did everyone else, when records began to disappear from a rented facility.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Waste of money. Someone cried when a building was demolished. It was old and the prsion takes precedent, it still does but Stoffa is short on vision long on incompetence.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" the prsion takes precedent,"

You need to go back to grade school before you can expect anyone to take what you write seriously.

Anonymous said...

One more county building. No plan but one more building. This guy is as clueless today as he was seven years ago.

Anonymous said...

Keep buying Northampton County, way to go. There is probably plenty of room in other buildings that can be used. Why not explore that. What about vacant Township and Boro buildings that are not being used. Why not explore that. Spend Spend Spend. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

1.16 has a point. Somehow blaming Reibman for this is ridiculous. And the simple fact is, if this was such a significant priority for the County and John, it took him...6 years to find and buy a building? Really?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad they're spending a million and a half bucks while unemployment is 10%, foreclosures continue, an Stoffa wants a huge tax increase. You can tell Stoffa has never earned a private dollar in his life. He's lived in a fiscal fantasy land since he was old enough to beg. These dummies really know how to run things. How about proposing a one pension limit for all county employees? We'd be rid of more than half of these irresponsible spendthrifts. Life looks a lot different when you view it from atop the public pension gravy train.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" Somehow blaming Reibman for this is ridiculous. And the simple fact is, if this was such a significant priority for the County and John, it took him...6 years to find and buy a building? Really?"

Reibman is the rocket scientist who decided to knock down a state of the art archives building to make way for a prison expansion in 2004. It was stupid. That same year, he got Council to go along with the swaption. Another brilliant move. Perhas the two dumbest things a Conty Exec has ever done in NC. He owns both messes.

An archives was a big priority for Stoffa. He bought the Milides building, hoping to move the archives there, only to learn that there were all kinds of problems with the site. He then sent lots of time looking for a new site, looking at 30 places. He dealt with a Council in his first 4 years that opposed every move he made. It is only in his second term that he had enough Council members on board that e could actually accomplish something, so now he is moving on it.

Could he have moved faster? Probably. But Stoffa moves at his own pace.

Anonymous said...

All property values are way down across the board in the Lehigh Valley yet somehow NC leadership can find one that has increased 100% and needs $1.4 to accommodate it's needs?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yes. do you have a better site to address the County's needs? Would you rather continue flushing money down the toilet every year?

Anonymous said...

What I'm stating is perhaps better negotiating skills and more due diligence.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean the function is going totalyy in-house? Who will do the work? Union labor?

I've used record retention services. It is not easy. Lots of procedures and skills required! It's not just a roof. Many legal issues like like HIPPA regs on medical paperwork.Right to know is new since the records were moved to Iron MT.

I'd really like to see the cost versus benefit asnalysis?

The trade-off of perceived timely retrieval versus cost is critical to the decision.

Ken Kraft said...

at 10:04

Are you saying that our employees are not good enough to run the archive building?

You should really sign your name when you want to make statements like this.

Anonymous said...

With this purchase the county becomes a placeholder for the eventual "owner operator"...
Abe

c said...

I applaud this decision.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I beleive people are just expressing their frustrations and feelings. According to O'Hare Stoffa gets a pass on every bad decision he has made because of Reibman. He gets a pass on every non-decision because of Reibman.

Reibman, like every good executive, had to deal with the prison.He did. He got a lease for a building that a few people like O'Hare hated. The fees paid the lease so no tax dollars wasted. The plan was to Partner with the Northampton County Genealogical Historical Society for a building in Easton. Don't beleive it ask Andy Daub. That was a great idea. Stoffa won and he threw out that idea just like he threw out the plan that was fixing Gracedale. Why, because he is a vindictive know it all old man.

Now the county owns another building, wonderful. The point is Stoffaa has served two terms and according to O'Hare he can do no wrong because everything is still Reibmans fault and Stoffa "owns" nothing. Which is exactly his legacy in office.

The prison was a priority when he took office and it still is. Stoffa is the worst county executive in county history and that just burns O'Hare.

Ms. Moncha Mulvah
Easton

Anonymous said...

For what Stoffa intends on spending, the County could have built a state of the art archives building on the Gracedale campus.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Ms. Moncha Mulvah"

Another coward.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"For what Stoffa intends on spending, the County could have built a state of the art archives building on the Gracedale campus."

You're wrong. Stoffa considered 30 different sits. The Gracedale complex was one of them. It would have been more expensive and farther away.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa isn't the worst. He's a mess, but Reibman was worse. The operation should contracted and not run by inefficient and expensive county employees. We're already spending 1.5 million while county residents continue to lose their jobs and their homes. The spending has to be brought under control.

Anonymous said...

John Stoffa the worst County Executive in history. He waited to spend $25 million on something he could have dumped his first year for nothing. He buys a another building we don't need.

Bernie O'Hare said...

... so says an anonymous coward.

Anonymous said...

"Stoffa considered 30 different sites". So the deal is if someone works hard at doing something meaningless and ends up with a silly and expensive decision, it must be good becasue he worked hard at it.

That sums up the entire Stoffa tenure.

Bernie O'Hare said...

What sums you up is an irrational, and cowardly, disdain for a man who is much better than you.

Anonymous said...

Bernie O'Hare said...
"You're wrong. Stoffa considered 30 different sites. The Gracedale complex was one of them. It would have been more expensive and farther away."

6:47 PM

First Bernie, no disrespect, I enjoy your blog.

But... I disagree. For 1.5 million the County could build a nice Archive building at the Gracedale campus where they have tons of county owned property. The property they are buying in Forks is only one acre, it looks like a steel and block warehouse, certainly not worth the money they are paying. And, by buying it they are now taking a prime commercial property off the tax rolls.

Also, I google mapped the distance from the courthouse to Conroy Place - 6.4 miles. I googled the distance to Gracedale - 7.9 miles, not that big of a difference. Certainly a lot closer than the 22 miles away (in a different county) that it has been for the last eight years.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'm glad you enjoy my blog. The Google map function does not show the shortcuts that those of us who work in and around Easton know and use. It's 4 miles. Lots of ways to get to Forks.

As indicated, 30 sites were considered, and building at Gracedale was one of those options. It was ruled out by a committee as too costly.

This was put off for long enough. The conditions in Allentown were inadequate. Records were deteriorating bc the humidity and temp controls are inadequate. We have a legal obligation to preserve those records, and many of them are becoming unreadable. This extends beyond the historical significance bc our entire system of real estate depends on recorded documents that can be examined. It was time to do something.

This is also fiscally prudent. We will be spending less in the long run than we would under a lease arrangement. McClure has his eye only n next year's budget, and should be taking a more long-term view.

Anonymous said...

Just a year ago Mc Clure said we had too much money and that tax payers were being overtaxed...even suggesteed tax money be returned. Now there isn`t enough. Which is it ? Frankly he is a wind bag like butter ball Barron and doesn`t like to see progress. Try building an archives building for 750 000 dollars and see what you get. Stoffa has an 6 year record of no tax increases except for a half mill for open space. Bring back Reibman ...we need another swaption.

Anonymous said...

What "Ms. Mulvah" doesn't comment on, is that two different engineers looked at the building the historical society proffered to partner with the county and found out the floors could not handle the load if storing large quantities of archival material would have put on the building. Even the historical society realized the building was not sufficient for the intended purpose of storing that much weight on the old wooden floors. After the engineering studies showed the floors would have collapsed, the idea was not feasible. It was not a "great idea". That is why the search was looking for a one story building with a concrete base floor.

Anonymous said...

"It was a source of pride to County officials, especially when other counties called for tours. But Executive Glenn Reibman ordered its demolition for a prison expansion. Maurice Dimmick, the County's archivist at the time, welled up in tears as a wrecking ball did its dirty work."

Please tell us why we should give a rat's ass about that part. We are not paying taxes so government goofs can be proud and sentimental.

If the need is there, it is there. Hard to believe outsourced records management could not be more cost effective when comparing apples to apples. Maybe the current setup was inefficient but, that could simply be government being government.

Most likely, we will have another arrogant, bloated, inefficient and, probably, unionized boondoggle in short order. And, overpaying like this - NO ONE, except government, is paying that kind of appreciation in the current market - is not something that builds confidence that the ensuing improvements and operation will be handled any more skillfully.

-Clem

Anonymous said...

The Reibman administration demolished a building that was state of the art, it cost the taxpayers $500,000.00 to build. New construction costs for commercial buildings run about $250.00 a square foot to costruct. So building would be cost prohibitive, i think the county did ok in buying this building for $775,000.00 for the amount of square footage the building has.
Glenn Reibman and his team of Harvard graduates demolished the archives building which wasn't even 20 years old to make room for the prison expansion.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone thinks that convicts should have a nice air conditioned drug addict lounge. Many non- government types want a prison so the bad guys don't hurt us.

The archives building was in the way, simple. We still have a problem but I guess one of Stoffa's numerous "committees" to make decisions has not tackled that one in seven years.

Now we have another county owned building. A crappy high priced warehouse type building in the middle of Forks. I am sure the owner is thrilled. A one hundred percent return on his investment over ten years, while the rest of us saw our real estate value go down. Things that make you go Hmmm?

Reibman solved a problem and made a county worker cry. Stoffa solved no real problems, cost the county money by buying yet another county building and creating more county jobs of union guys to take care of it.

Yeah he is a keeper. Oh, I am sorry, I forgot the "committee" looked at 30 properties so this is great.

HAHA!!

Anonymous said...

It's good they did not choose Gracedale. The place will be gone in four years. There's no point in investing in that site. This is a longer term solution.

Anonymous said...

This needs to be reviewed, What is the relationship between those who approved the lease of space in Allentown and the owner of the property!

Anonymous said...

"Reibman is the rocket scientist who decided to knock down a state of the art archives building to make way for a prison expansion in 2004."

Yeaah, you're right...something foolhardy like a prison expansion. wish Reibman had stuck to core county functio... oh wait

Anonymous said...

"That same year, he got Council to go along with the swaption. Another brilliant move. Perhas the two dumbest things a Conty Exec has ever done in NC. He owns both messes."

if it was stupid, then it was compounded by six years of Stoffa's stupidity, as he sat on his hands and did nothing

Anonymous said...

"An archives was a big priority for Stoffa. He bought the Milides building, hoping to move the archives there, only to learn that there were all kinds of problems with the site. He then sent lots of time looking for a new site, looking at 30 places."

they built the pentagon in 11 mnths...

Anonymous said...

6:44 AM

"It's good they did not choose Gracedale. The place will be gone in four years. There's no point in investing in that site. This is a longer term solution."

So you're saying they are gonna get rid of the 911 Center, because that's on the Gracedale campus. Gracedale is a huge property. The nursing home is only a portion of it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"they built the pentagon in 11 mnths..."

Yes it was built in 16 months, and on a floodplain, during WWII, when the country was united.

Stoffa spent 4 years dealing with a Council that blocked everything he tried. He did finally manage to get them to agree to purchase the Milides building, and that could not be used. He appears to finally have a Council whose majority seems more interested in doing what is right than in doing what is politically expedient. That archives building is not a luxury, but a necessity. One of the County's core functions is to preserve our real estate records, which are the vast majority of record preserved. It makes more sense to have our own archives than to rent at a facility that does not do it right.

The Gracedale campus would be great. It is farther away, but is the geographic center of the County. I'd love it since I live in Nazareth. But it was determined to be cost prohibitive.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bernie. I realize that Stoffa has had to deal with Reibman, county council and the people but is any problem ever his problem?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Look, he is not the person who took the wrecking ball to a state-of-the-art archives building in 2004. Now, you say he moves too slowly with some justification. But I really get tired of seeing him blamed for someone else's mistakes, over and over. And the personal nature of these attacks is disgusting to me. He is a good man who sees the best in every person. He is also honest to a fault. So I get very annoyed when he is attacked personally, especially since his public life is nearly over. Give the guy some respect. That's all I ask, and that's too much for some.

Anonymous said...

Not really, is deleting and censoring opposing views too much to ask of a blog that invites people to participate?

Bernie O'Hare said...

When you use it to express irrational hate and do not identify yourself, I will delete you. It's my blog. If you don't like it, start your own.