Calling it “the end of an era,” Luzerne County Manager C. David Pedri told council members Wednesday all remaining records and county-owned shelving have been removed from a leased Wilkes-Barre storage facility.
The records were moved into the county’s new record storage building in Hanover Township. Council agreed to buy the property at 85 Young St. in 2015 to address concerns the county’s leased space in the Thomas C. Thomas building on Union Street was insufficient for keeping documents that must be preserved.
A state archive expert urged county officials to address the issue in June 2010, saying the Wilkes-Barre building has temperature extremes, a lack of security, leaks and fire hazards.
In August, as the new facility was still being prepped, a leak at the Thomas building forced the county to remove a total of 1,701 water-damaged boxes of records and thick docket books. Building owner Thomas C. Thomas identified a faulty sprinkler head as the culprit and said the sprinkler system was properly inspected and maintained. Insurance claims are pending.
To date, the administration has spent or committed $1.9 million on the new facility — $750,000 to purchase the former U.S. mail property and another $1.146 million for shelving and construction, flooring, lighting, electrical, and HVAC and plumbing work, according to publicly posted contracts.
The latest capital plan allocated additional funds to create a new space for the public to research records.
County Operational Services Division Head Edmund O’Neill said several companies submitted bids to complete the public research area by the Oct. 11 deadline. The administration plans to review those bids this week, he said.
A fee on recorded deeds that generates around $7,000 per month will cover utility costs for the new facility. The county has been paying $103,104 annually to rent space at the Thomas site.
Pedri also announced he will hold a media briefing at the courthouse 4 p.m. Thursday to discuss the county’s bond refinancing, which he said closed Wednesday and will result in significant savings to the county in 2017 and 2018 without extending the county’s 2029 debt repayment schedule.
A council majority approved the refinancing in September to eliminate all variable rate debt and lock in lower interest rates.
The refinancing was linked with new borrowing of $7.5 million to fund an energy project that will fix a series of capital problems aimed at cutting utility expenses. With the borrowing factored in, officials had estimated the county’s overall debt would increase an estimated $3.5 million to a new total $319.9 million through 2029.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.