Luzerne County government now officially owns a Hanover Township property that will be used for record storage and possibly a morgue.
A county council majority agreed in November to buy the former U.S. mail carrier facility at 85 Young St. from New Jersey-based Wilkes-Barre Carrier Annex LLC for $750,000.
The council’s 2016 long-range capital plan earmarked $1.45 million in past-borrowed funds for the record storage project.
Renovations are estimated at $570,000 for record storage and a total $879,000 if the morgue and county coroner’s office space are included. Moving costs are projected to be $67,740, officials said.
A fee on recorded deeds that generates around $7,000 per month would be sufficient to cover utility costs for the new facility, the administration said.
A state archives expert advised county officials years ago to find another home for their records, including original documents dating back to the late 1800s, because the county’s current space in the Thomas C. Thomas building on Union Street in Wilkes-Barre suffers from temperature extremes, lack of security, leaks and fire hazards.
Most of the papers kept on three floors of that property must be retained by state law.
The 28,600-square-foot Hanover Township property, located near the county 911 center, will require fire protection upgrades, a security system, servicing of the heating/ventilation/air conditioning system and electrical work, officials said.
Shelving also must be installed to hold records. It’s unclear if the county can reuse extensive wood shelving installed at the Thomas C. Thomas building. The county pays $103,104 annually to rent space at that property.
The addition of a morgue at the Hanover Township site would end the county’s reliance on Wilkes-Barre General Hospital to store bodies that can’t be transported to a funeral home due to pending investigations or delays identifying the deceased or notifying survivors. This arrangement sometimes creates issues with space availability, officials said.
Acting County Manager C. David Pedri sent an email to the council members Friday informing them of the purchase closing.
“This building will be added to county insurance. As the planning and renovations for this space proceed, the county administration will keep you informed of any updates,” Pedri wrote.