Thursday, April 05, 2012
Northampton County Finally Has An Archives Building ... Again
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."
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.