SOUDERTON – A new master plan for the future of the Summit Street building that houses the borough offices and police station has an estimated price tag of about $1 million, Borough Manager Mike Coll told Souderton Borough Council at its Oct. 14 work session meeting.
That raises the question of whether the building, which was built in 1927, should be renovated or whether the borough should instead build a new building, he said. The building was originally a school that was later converted to the borough offices.
One possibility would be to construct a new building on the borough-owned land on Main Street that is now a parking lot where the borough's digital sign is, Coll said.
Two other suggestions, raised by council member Jeff Gross, were to look into the possibility of putting a new building behind the current building, then making the area where the building now is located into the parking area or moving the borough offices and police station to a new building on Cherry Lane along with the borough's plan to move the Public Works building to the Cherry Lane site.
The highest priority at the existing building is for the police station side, where more immediate work is needed, Coll said.
“It's really not in good condition and I don't think it's really functioning the way it should be,” he said.
Changes aren't currently needed for the borough offices side of the building, but it may not fit what is needed for the future, Coll said.
“This building gives you a very fixed footprint and this building has limitations for the next administrations coming in who could very easily say this is not working for what we think we should be doing,” he said.
The $1 million master plan includes about $500,000 for the police station and $500,000 for the administration side, he said.
Gross said the master plan for the existing building was well thought-out.
“It's a really good use of space,” he said.
The other options, including combining the administrative offices, police station and Public Works at the Cherry Lane site, should also be looked into, though, he said.
“Building one larger building would cost much less than building two separate buildings,” council President Brian Goshow said.
There are ongoing maintenance requirements for the existing building because of its age, he said.
“I think generally speaking, the building is pretty sound. It just has a lot of little issues,” he said.
The borough just spent money on putting a new roof on the building, he said.
“There's been a lot of work that's gone into this building in recent years to keep it going,” Goshow said. “Does that bind you to continuing that? I don't know.”
Council member Dan Yocum said his initial reaction is in favor of doing the renovations to the police station side of the building rather than constructing a new building.
“If a half a million dollars can renovate the police department side so that it can be functional, and even if we had to rent or use some other space to store records, that is the option I would personally rather see than do a giant production project,” he said.
“You don't want to abandon a good building, but you also don't want to wait until the building is absolutely crumbling apart,” Gross said. “It's just a matter of trying to look at the whole big picture and say what's the best avenue.”
The building is sound, but more work will be needed in upcoming years, Goshow said.
“To Mike's point, what does a million dollars get you? Does it get you 15 years in the future or does it only give you five years in the future, then you gotta do something different again?” Goshow said.
Even if the decision were made immediately to move to Cherry Lane, it would take years before the building would be completed, council member Richard Halbom said.
“If we put a million dollars into this,” Halbom said of the current building, “then I'd like to see at least 10 years out of that, if not 15 or more.”
That doesn't mean the move couldn't be made at some point in the future, though, he said. The Public Works building could be designed so the other offices could be added later, he said.
Next year's budget is expected to include work on the police station side of the building, Coll said.
In another matter at the meeting, Coll said the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development notified him that a $50,000 grant, which was backed by state Sen. Maria Collett, D-12, and state Rep. Steve Malagari, D-53, is being allocated for the borough's plan to redo the borough-owned Railroad Avenue parking lot.
The planned $100,000 project would include stormwater management, landscaping upgrades and repaving the parking lot.
The borough should also start thinking about adding charging stations for electric vehicles in public parking lots, Halbom said.
“Right now, it's not an issue, but it's gonna be,” he said.
“Who pays for the electric?” Gross asked.
“If you're using it, you can pay for it with your credit card,” Halbom said.
The electrical circuit for the charging stations is essentially the same as for a clothes dryer, he said.