The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 13, 2012

What's the rush on E. Buffalo building?


Daily Item

---- — Almost two years ago, East Buffalo Township rejected bids from contractors competing to build a new municipal building because the proposed price tag was $3.5 million -- $500,000 more than the township had expected to pay.

The supervisors said they would work with designers and try to determine how to scale down their plans to get costs under control.

Time passed.

Then this summer, East Buffalo's supervisors gathered again and asked contractors to give them estimates for a new building.

What a difference two years make. The winning bid came in at $3.5 million.

Supervisor Jim Buck was the lone dissenter as the supervisors voted 2-1 to move forward on the project.

This week, Buck objected because the township supervisors approved a 40-page lease agreement even though none of the supervisors had read the document. The township's municipal manager had apparently not had the opportunity to review the language in the agreement either, but their solicitor said he had read the agreement and it passed muster. For two of the supervisors, Henry Baylor Jr. and Thomas Zorn, that was good enough.

The township, it seems, must hurry because it has only until the end of this month to vacate before the demolition equipment arrives.

There must be other options available.

Hang a shingle on a tent and call it the municipal building if need be.

The township municipal building dates to the 1940s. There has always been a substantial amount of public ambivalence about the necessity for a new municipal building. Four years ago, the township placed a non-binding ballot question before voters, who rejected the measure. The township supervisors largely chalked up the defeat to an under-appreciation by the public regarding the dire straits at the municipal building. Few people regularly visit the municipal building, after all. And therein, may be the rub. Municipal leaders are asking voters to pay for a building that serves administrative functions after managing for decades.

Supervisor Buck is sounding a cautionary note that his colleagues ought to heed.

The headlong rush to suddenly move on the municipal building now in a time of austerity is puzzling, at best.

The township supervisors have made a case for the need to do something. The supervisors have never managed to explain why the $3.5 million cost is justified or why there is such a sudden rush to act when there are legitimate reasons to pause.