County office move worthy of study
Northumberland County commissioners have a lot of good reasons for considering consolidation of county facilities.
Stephen Bridy and Vinny Clausi say they want to study what the county could gain by moving out of the 19,000-square-foot administration center - a rather extravagant layout where each of the three commissioners has a private bathroom - and spread those offices among other county-owned buildings, including the career and arts center in Shamokin.
It would be quite an undertaking, but we agree it's worth consideration, with cost savings the driving force.
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In addition to the "admin center" and the courthouse in Sunbury, the county also leases space at the Seiple complex not far from Sunbury's downtown. Add in the career center (the former Shamokin High School), and that's a lot of square footage for a county government that has already shrunk and will probably continue to do so.
Not counting the sale of Mountain View Manor and the elimination of 250-some employees there, county payroll is still down by some 50 people since 2007. The transportation department has essentially been eliminated through privatization.
As Commissioner Rick Shoch notes, County Code dictates that the commissioners, controller, treasurer, sheriff, recorder of deeds, prothonotary, clerk of courts, register of wills and district attorney "shall keep their respective offices, and all public records and papers belonging thereto, at the county seat," so that takes those offices out of consideration for any move out of town. But Clausi points out there may be room to locate some of the required offices currently in the administration center to other county buildings in Sunbury, while others could move to Shamokin.
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Of course, what gets Shamokin's attention about this idea is threefold: More local employment, county services closer to home and, perhaps most importantly, making better use of the career and arts center.
The building's future was uncertain at best when Pennsylvania CareerLink moved out in 2011, but commissioners vowed to keep it open, particularly because that means Luzerne County Community College still has a rent-free home for its Northumberland County campus and can offer cheaper tuition to local students.
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As Clausi points out, the entire process is contingent on finding a buyer for the administration center. Even before it gets that far, a study that maps out the potential office moves would let everyone know whether it's feasible and if there are any unforeseen drawbacks. And employees should certainly have their say.
In the meantime, we like any idea that results in cutting the cost of government.