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Borough Hall Belongs to the Residents

It has been proposed that council take action at the next meeting whether or not to proceed with the demolition of borough hall and the police station. Borough hall belongs to ALL of us residents

Out of last week’s Administration and Finance Committee meeting, it has been proposed that council take action at the next meeting whether or not to proceed with the demolition of borough hall and the police station. This will make way for a new borough hall/police station complex.

This proposal came out of a facilities and grounds study done by architects Spiezle and Associates. . Their plans range from simply repairing deficiencies and therefore, keeping the two buildings intact, to building a new police station and keeping the old borough hall to demolishing both buildings and starting from scratch. Needless to say, the last recommendation has caused quite a stir here in town (I think most people, including myself, agree that a new police station does make sense). 

Demolishing borough hall, in particular, strikes a nerve because it is a historic building in town and as we all know, Lansdale has not done well when it comes to preserving old buildings. In fact, one of the most stinging criticisms here in Lansdale is that we have bulldozed just about every historic structure in Borough — the Tremont, the Eitherton, the Theater, the Longacker, the Bienacker, the list goes on an on.

In speaking with my resident elders, I know that it was with great pride that One Vine Street was dedicated as Lansdale’s new borough hall in 1988. Twenty-five years have gone by since then and like our homes it needs updating and repair work, but demolishing? That is a question the residents must answer. And in contrast to the buildings named above which were private property, borough hall belongs to ALL of us residents.

The architectural firm, Spiezle and Associates, was contracted to do a facilities study in order to independently and objectively assess the condition of Lansdale’s structures. I understand this rationale to a certain extent. What I don’t understand is that borough council will be voting in two weeks to decide if Spiezle will also be contracted to provide the architectural plans for the borough.

If this is the case, then they just wrote their own ticket. According to laws of the State of Pennsylvania, professional services — such as a architectural, engineering and legal — do not have to go out to bid. Our borough manager can simply recommend any professional with council’s approval (that includes consultants which we have had our fair share of). My point here is that there are no competing estimates or proposals; we simply have to accept Spiezle’s recommendation. Are there other ideas out there with lower estimates? We don’t know. As a business (and the borough likes to say that we should operate more like a business) considering a large project, typically a minimum of three estimates is recommended. In the case of the construction and/or repairs of borough hall, we have only one estimate which is from Spiezle and Associates.

For example, according to Spiezle’s facilities and grounds assessment on page 19 it is stated that, “Additionally, the borough manager does not have private restroom facilities so he/she must use the public restroom through the lobby.” This may be a cheap shot, but does the borough manager really need his or her own bathroom? Are there other issues in the Facilities and Grounds Study that need a second look? Other items that are perhaps, nice but not necessary? I am an elected official, and I have an obligation to the taxpayer and not to staff.

On a more philosophical level, I will ask this question: How does spending lavishly on a new borough hall improve the lives of the average Lansdale resident? As a resident, I want my toilets to flush, my lights and heat to work, my roads to be relatively smooth and my community safe and my taxes commensurate. In 1970, Lansdale’s population was 18,451. That is 2,182 MORE than in 2010. There were no computers back then AND the Borough functioned in a smaller space at 421 West Main Street. How is it that now in 2013, we have outgrown our current borough hall? (By the way, the average attendance by the public to borough hall meetings is 13) Could the answer be an ever expanding bureaucracy?

Finally, I have heard time and again from the administration that the borough needs to invest in itself or no one else will. Do people flock to Doylestown for their borough hall? For that matter, has Pottstown’s new borough hall revitalized the their downtown? Will a new borough hall improve my property values and entice businesses to come to Lansdale?

These are important questions that need to be asked before we commit to spending a lot of money on a project that has debatable benefits to the average tax payer. As always, I welcome your thoughts and if you feel strongly either way about this issue, please contact me or your borough representative. 

Check out Lansdale Councilman Denton Burnell's response to this blog at this link.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Pete Borgmann February 14, 2013 at 01:30 AM
Landale's theme song... " Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what cha got till it's gone, they paved paradise to put up a parkin' lot " ... Big Yellow Taxi.
patchifier February 14, 2013 at 01:41 AM
Well said, Mayor! The borough hall adds a much needed charm to the center of town and really should be preserved until such a point arrives as there is simply nothing more that can be done to save it. We are nowhere near that point yet. Besides the historical worthiness of saving the building, it also provides a focal counterpoint to Main Street. If the rest of this proposal goes through, and Railroad Ave is turned into pedestrian space, and borough hall fixed up - then all you need it someone to fix up the old railroad depot and its lot and you'd have a good anchor to the S. Broad corridor that could help spur (re-)development on that side of town - providing the borough another asset for its continuing growth.
Patty Troxel February 14, 2013 at 01:51 AM
Keep the current buildings! We do not have an ecomony that needs to be spending that kind of money !, Save Borough Hall it's a Historic building!,
Sherrianne Rocchino February 14, 2013 at 02:00 AM
It's about time Lansdale realizes what it has done to the history of our town. Stop tearing down the old buildings. Hasn't anyone learned any lessons here ?
LansFan February 14, 2013 at 02:14 AM
I'm not too quick to designate a 25 year old building as historical but how can borough hall be in such disrepair that it needs to be razed? One wonders who was involved in the construction in 1988.
Mark Methlie February 14, 2013 at 02:33 AM
It was not built in 1988, that is when the borough put in service after acquiring the building from the post office in an exemplary case of re-purposing.
Sherrianne Rocchino February 14, 2013 at 03:36 AM
It was built around 1925.
Denton Burnell February 14, 2013 at 12:29 PM
For a somewhat different viewpoint head over to: www.relativetolansdale.org. Sherrianne and Mark are correct. It was built and commissioned in the late 20's and recommissioned in 1988 as Borough Hall. Very little has been done to keep it in proper working order.
Constance Lezenby February 14, 2013 at 02:21 PM
I had just moved to Lansdale when a beautiful theatre was torn down. Later I watched the Tremont Hotel be replaced by awkward box architecture. We need to preserve our historic architecture in Lansdale. The present Borough Hall building deserves to be renovated and reused. I support finding a new use for the building. Borough Hall functions and the police station can be moved to a new facility that meets their needs.
Ronnie Sensinger February 14, 2013 at 03:42 PM
I can't believe we're going to do this again! I'm all for progress and keeping current, but if 200 year old buildings in Philadelphia and countless other locations in the country, not to mention the world, can be preserved and repurposed, why can't we make this one work. If maintenance is the problem, shame on Lansdale's past and current powers that be for not taking care of it. Make this a referendum in May and see what residents want to do with it. My bet is that a majority will agree that losing one of the last major historic buildilngs in town is not an option. Build a new police station and repair what needs to be repaired in Borough Hall. If you tear it down, we lose another piece of our history. Who was it that said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"?
Denton Burnell February 14, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Ronnie -- thanks for your comments. Lansdale's current administration IS trying to take care of it because previous ones did not. And historic preservation is definitely very much on the table. My response to the Mayor (www.relativetolansdale.org) points this out, as it seems this fact got lost in the shuffle.
Sherrianne Rocchino February 15, 2013 at 12:25 AM
Maybe instead of the grant for a new parking garage and condo's in the Madison Parking lot, we should request funds for refurbishing our historical buildings. Lansdale is not the area for a multi level parking garage. After all, Madison parking lot is also a "historical' area. Save our town, and do what is necessary to save our history before it's too late.
Pat February 15, 2013 at 11:22 PM
I agree. It is the nicest looking building in the borough. It would be a crime to demolish it!
Pat February 15, 2013 at 11:24 PM
The Tremont replacement is a blight on the borough. The Stasi would have felt right at home in that hideous building. Whoever designed it should have his or her architecture degree revoked.
Sherrianne Rocchino February 16, 2013 at 12:43 AM
An online petiton to save the Lansdale Post office, any one interested in signing, can click on the link below. http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.change.org%2Fpetitions%2Flansdale-borough-do-not-demolish-the-lansdale-borough-hall-building&h=ZAQElY-sY Thank you in advance.

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