The Wyoming County Commissioners plan to present a counteroffer of $125,000 to the Tunkhannock Area School Board for the purchase of the former Mill City Elementary School.
At an auction on Saturday, the board received an offer of $110,000 from Dobrinski Brothers in Falls for the building, which was closed during the school district’s consolidation.
During Tuesday’s commissioners’ meeting, Commissioner Rick Wilbur said the county spends an excess of $50,000 per year renting spaces for county offices.
If successful, Wilbur said the county would relocate these offices to Mill City to save money. Additionally, the county would relocate offices from the Robinson building, which it owns, then sell it to make a profit.
Eventually, the county would also be able to rent out extra spaces in the building to state and federal offices for extra income, he said.
Wilbur also shared potential plans for a small business incubator in the old school, as well as a community recreational facility in the building’s all-purpose room. He has been in contact with Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which has shown interest in helping start-up businesses in the area with the incubator.
“It’s multifaceted and the numbers work,” he said.
Ahead of taking office on Jan. 6, Wilbur said he has been working on this plan. However, the short period between his first day in office and the auction did not allow enough time to get everything together.
Wilbur and Commissioner Ernie King said they would be in attendance at a special meeting for the school board on Tuesday night to present the counteroffer, plus any necessary auction fees.
According to Wilbur, the county is eligible for a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If the county receives this grant, the remaining costs for the building would either come from the general fund or impact fees.
Commissioner Tom Henry voted no to the counteroffer and said he was unsure if he could join them at the meeting. He expressed concern for the timing of the offer, but said he believes in the potential of the building.
Wilbur said while he understands Henry’s concerns, another opportunity like this probably won’t come up for the county.
As office leases expire, he said the county would move employees into the Mill City building. Since it borders a commercial property, he believes having it rezoned from rural/agriculture wouldn’t be an issue.
The commissioners recently met with Rep. Karen Boback and PennDOT regarding Roadside Rest in Eaton Twp. and discussed a potential plan for more policing to prevent issues with noise and trash that have impacted the area.
The commissioners also approved an agreement with Tunkhannock Area School District in regard to an assessment appeal with Procter & Gamble, which Solicitor Paul Litwin said splits costs based on areas such as millage and appraisals.
Lynnelle Farber, county planner, reminded that applications for the Marcellus Legacy Fund Mini Grant are due Feb. 21. Municipalities and nonprofit organizations could apply to fund recreation projects. For more information, visit wycopa.org.
Farber also said businesses in Wyoming and Bradford counties could fund facade improvements through another grant opportunity with the Route 6 Alliance and the Endless Mountains Heritage Region.
At the Dietrich Theater on Feb. 3 at 6 p.m., there will be a public meeting about this opportunity.
Both grants have a maximum of $5,000 and require a 50/50 match.
Dollar General has withdrawn its application for a new store in Meshoppen, citing it as “cost prohibitive,” Farber added.
“They are going to search for another suitable site,” she said.
Sandra Boyle was in attendance to discuss the potential of a pickleball club in Tunkhannock Borough’s Riverside Park. The group pushing for the club held a successful demonstration at Tunkhannock Area High School and hopes to resurface three old basketball courts in the park.
Boyle said the borough has so far shown support, and the group received an estimate of $27,000 to resurface the courts.
While the group would not be eligible to apply for the Marcellus Legacy Grant, the borough could apply as a government entity, and Boyle said she plans to look into this idea.
While Farber has been appointed to the Tunkhannock Borough Park Commission, she said it hasn’t been active quite yet.
The commissioners also made a proclamation for ‘Wyoming County Reads: Two Books, Two Movies’ and encouraged the public to participate in book discussions of ‘On Chesil Beach’ and ‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan with the Tunkhannock Public Library this February. The Dietrich Theater will also show film adaptations of the books.
The commissioners also approved following on Tuesday:
*Reappoint Ronald Kukuchka to the Airport Authority.
*Hire Lindsay Shepherd, domestic relations, effective Jan. 2.
*Move Amber Collett from part time to full time at the Wyoming County Correctional Facility.
*Hire Kelly Ferguson, Children & Youth case aide, effective Dec. 27, 2019.
*Hire Christina Soloman, C&Y case aide 2, effective Dec. 23, 2019.
*Hire Sara Strohl, sheriff’s office administrative assistant, effective Jan. 13.
In an executive session, besides coming to a decision about the potential real estate sale, the commissioners discussed litigation with P&G and personnel issues in the correctional facility.
The Wyoming County Commissioners are scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 9 a.m.