KULPMONT - A commissioned study by an independent architect shows it would cost more than $2 million for the borough to renovate its current municipal building rather than build new for about $1 million.

Critics of the new building are happy to see a written estimate.

"We are happy to see this," said Bob Chesney, who has voiced his opinion against the building project. "This is what we have been asking for."

At the start of Tuesday's borough council meeting, the public heard from architect Rocky Baer, of Baer Wolfe Architects, of Sunbury, who was asked to prepare a cost analysis after walking through the former Wilson Grade School, where the borough conducts its business.

The plan is to build a 4,000 square-foot building and a 5,000-foot borough garage in the area of Fir Street, but critics have said they don't believe renovating the old building would cost more than building new. Critics have continually asked the borough for proof of the costs.

Last month, borough council approved the study and asked borough engineer Mike Begis and an architect to do the walkthrough.

On March 4, Baer, Begis, council member Joseph Winhofer and code enforcement officer Russ Moroz walked through the building, including on the roof and in the boiler room, inspecting all components on the surface.

Doing an analysis based on past projects, industry pricing and using prevailing wage rates, Baer came up with a list of 18 items of areas in extreme disrepair or simply not up to current standards (see sidebar).

According to Baer's analysis, renovating the first floor of the building, a 7,000-foot structure, would cost $1,814,000. Renovation of the second floor would add $700,000 in costs, not including ongoing maintenance of the building.

Council president Bruno Varano also produced a proposal for a feasibility study on renovating the building from 2009.

"This shows that we have been thinking about this for the last five years," Varano said.

In the proposal done by Brinjac Engineering, of Harrisburg, many of the same problems were found, including the inadequacy of the police station and a lack of a clear access point for the general public to transact business at borough offices.

After Baer's report, Chesney questioned whether this was the "Cadillac version" of the repairs, but Baer assured him that he used average materials to calculate the price.

"After seeing this, I understand that, maybe, building new is a better option, but I ask council to be as fiscally responsible as they can on this matter," Chesney said.

In other business

Mayor Bernard Novakoski said parking restrictions will go into effect April 2 and vehicles must be parked with the flow of traffic on all north and south streets.

Moroz asked the public to refrain from using the alley near the former weaving plant of J.K. and C.K. Eagle and Company on Chestnut Street because of structural safety concerns.

"We don't want any member of the public getting hurt there," Moroz said.

A girl from Reading suffered a leg injury in July while she and some friends were trespassing in the former mill. The girl and three other youths were cited.

Council directed Moroz to call state agencies to help find the owner of the former weaving plant to address the problems.

There will be no ticketing for street sweepers during the month of March and regular sweeping will begin in April.

The borough's playground at the Terry Mirello Field is scheduled to open April 1.

Food surplus will be distributed from 8 a.m. to noon Thursday at the borough garage.