Consultant Ken Mohr laid out plans for a 3-story, 66,375 sq ft building on 5.36 acres, with 256 parking places. Located between Freemansburg Avenue and William Penn Highway, this "one stop" human services shopping center would replace two aging county-owned buildings in Easton and Bethlehem.
The Governor Wolf Building, located at 45 N 2d St in Easton, is a 52,171 sq ft schoolhouse, built in 1893. Purchased by the County in 1986 for $912,000, it is home to 173 human services workers. It needs $3.3 million in capital repairs and improvements over the next 5-10 years.
The Martin J. Bechtel Building, located at 520 E Broad Street in Bethlehem, is a 28,000 sq ft facility, built in 1962. Purchased by the County in 1993 for $763,000, it houses 70 human services workers. It needs $1 million in capital improvements and repairs over the next 5-10 years.
According to Mohr, the County can sell the Wolf and Bechtel buildings for $2.8 million. That money can be used for a lease and option to purchase at Emrick Boulevard. The facility would be built by Polaris Properties by the end of 2013.
Council member Scott Parsons told Mohr that he would need to know more details about the sale of the Wolf and Bechtel buildings, and Mohr told him he could answer those questions in an executive session. President John Cusick had similar concerns.
Because of uncertainties at the state level, Stoffa would prefer a lease with an option to purchase to an outright purchase.
The County will pay between $11.15 and $18.15 per sq ft per year, depending on what it wants. This translates to a maximum of $1.19 million per year, with annual rental increases of 2.5%. The lease would run 15 years, with renewals extending the lease to thirty years. Along the way, the County would keep an option to purchase. At the end of the lease, the County will be able to purchase the facility for $1, if I understood Mohr correctly.
In addition being a centralized location for human services, County officials are considering the relocation of District Judge Jospeh Barner to that site when his current lease expires. It can also function as a satellite government center for tax payments and some other limited county purposes.
Council member Bruce Gilbert was impressed by the 256 parking spaces. Lack of parking is currently a drawback in Bethlehem and Easton. Another Council member, peg Ferraro, agreed and stated that this has been "needed a long, long time."
Stoffa tried for a centralized facility in his first year as Executive, but was rebuffed by Council.