$6.5 million in Luzerne County capital projects pitched


By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com



Luzerne County’s new proposed capital plan seeks $400,000 to demolish the vacant former county juvenile detention center in Wilkes-Barre.


2016 capital projects

In addition to proposed new endeavors, these big-ticket county capital projects are set for completion or design by the end of this year:

• Purchase and renovation of a county record storage building in Hanover Township, $1.45 million

• Various prison repairs and purchase of two new transport vans, $1.81 million

• Countywide server virtualization and internet firewall upgrade, $1.257 million

• Voice-over-IP system, $1.1 million

• Courthouse grounds repairs, including rear parking lot, $1.1 million

By Jennifer Learn-Andes

jandes@timesleader.com

Luzerne County’s new proposed capital plan seeks $400,000 to demolish the vacant former county juvenile detention center in Wilkes-Barre.
http://mydallaspost.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/web1_juvie01.jpgLuzerne County’s new proposed capital plan seeks $400,000 to demolish the vacant former county juvenile detention center in Wilkes-Barre.

A new website. Scanning of old records. Public safety radio communication upgrades.

These are among $6.5 million in capital projects Luzerne County’s administration wants the county council to authorize from 2017 through 2019, according to a new proposed capital plan released Thursday.

Another $9.6 million in previously approved projects will be completed or in design by the end of this year, the plan said.

The council must adopt an annual capital plan by Sept. 1 under home rule.

Council Chairwoman Linda McClosky Houck said more detail must be provided as part of upcoming council discussions, including clarification on whether any past-borrowed funds will be left if all proposed projects are approved. An answer to that question wasn’t immediately available from the administration Thursday.

A council majority had decided to keep about $3.5 million in reserve because the county may not be in a position to borrow more to cover capital needs for many years. The county owes around $321 million in principal and interest on past borrowing.

The most expensive project on the administration’s proposed list: $1.8 million to scan old paper civil court records and wills.

The council had rejected this project last year to help create the reserve.

The scanning would cover 30 years of wills and estate files for $500,000 and 13 years of prothonotary case files for $1.3 million, the plan said.

The project would allow the public and courts to view these records online, eliminating the daily need for staffers to retrieve files from an outside storage facility. It also would create a digital back-up copy of the records and generate revenue from online record downloads, some for genealogy research, officials have said.

The project would take five years and still leave about 75 years of wills and 26 years of prothonotary records to be scanned in the future.

The administration also proposes spending $1 million to resurface several county-owned roads and $850,000 toward a 911 project to upgrade public safety tower sites and radio communication.

A $150,000 county website upgrade also is proposed.

The current site, at www.luzernecounty.org, was designed more than a decade ago, has a cumbersome format for posting updates and is “not at all interactive or engaging,” said the proposed plan.

The other proposed projects include:

• $800,000 for the first phase of interior county courthouse restoration, including repairing past water damage to artwork, plaster and tile inside the historic Wilkes-Barre structure.

• $400,000 to demolish the vacant former county juvenile detention center on North River Street in Wilkes-Barre. A prospective buyer was reviewing the property, but no purchase offer has been presented to the council.

• $375,000 for a roof replacement at the Broad Street Exchange Building in downtown Hazleton. The county has unsuccessfully attempted to sell the former department store, which is almost fully occupied. The county took possession of the property several years ago because it was headed for a tax auction that would have erased an outstanding $1.8 million county community development loan.

• $200,000 to stop leaks and upgrade the heating and air conditioning system in the atrium of the county’s human service building, 111 Pennsylvania Ave., Wilkes-Barre.

• $193,000 for additional scanning and computer equipment to create more public access terminals and accommodate a new state software program scheduled for installation in the clerk of courts office later this year.

• $140,000 for a computer network fiber upgrade and relocation of one of the county’s two virtual computing servers from the courthouse to the Penn Place building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre.

• $100,000 to replace some aging vehicles in the county’s fleet.

• $100,000 to replace an old fuel tank in danger of leaking at the county-owned Wyoming Valley Airport in Forty Fort.

2016 capital projects

In addition to proposed new endeavors, these big-ticket county capital projects are set for completion or design by the end of this year:

• Purchase and renovation of a county record storage building in Hanover Township, $1.45 million

• Various prison repairs and purchase of two new transport vans, $1.81 million

• Countywide server virtualization and internet firewall upgrade, $1.257 million

• Voice-over-IP system, $1.1 million

• Courthouse grounds repairs, including rear parking lot, $1.1 million

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

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