The state Department of Community and Economic Development has awarded Lansford borough a $265,000 matching grant to refurbish its aging borough hall/fire station on East Patterson Street.
The borough would have to come up with a like amount to get the money, and therein lies the problem. Amassing the $265,000 the equivalent of about 8 mills in property tax would be a tough task for the struggling borough. But if it returns the grant, DCED likely will never again give the borough money.
"That's the Catch-22," council president Adam Webber said.
Council expects to discuss the matter when it meets at 6:30 p.m. today in the community center at 1 E. Ridge St.
On Tuesday, Webber and assistant secretary Karen Burrell, who submitted the successful grant application last year, sat at a picnic table behind the building, chatting with fire company officials Chris Aungst and Bryn Zellner about the grant and how the match could be acquired.
Both Aungst and Zellner said there's no way the fire company could raise that much money.
"It would be great to have it fixed up, but there's no way we could do that," said Zellner, the fire company's treasurer.
"We're struggling to keep our trucks running," said fire company president Aungst.
DCED typically gives recipients three years to either use the grants or return them, Burrell said. However, the borough must hire an architect for the project as soon as possible.
"The grant is a great opportunity, but this may be the wrong time," Webber said.
The building, at 26-28 E. Patterson St., was built as a fire station in 1896, with an addition for borough offices put up in 1906.
The brick building is in need of repair: the facade is crumbling, the roof leaks and a mold problem has compelled council to consider moving the cramped borough office from its location on the second floor to the community center on Ridge Street.
Burrell said the roof replacement would not be part of the project because it will be repaired after being damaged from a recent hail storm. Insurance will cover that cost, she said.
According to the grant application, the $530,000 project would renovate the building to create offices, bathrooms and break rooms. It would renovate the brick walls, inside and out; install an elevator, obtain an adjacent property to provide room for the elevator and for parking, and buy the services of an architect and engineer.
The project would consolidate the administrative, police, code enforcement/zoning and tax and sanitation offices in one building, and also create an emergency management office.
Currently, the tax office, code/zoning and police station are housed in the community center.
Consolidating the offices would save the borough taxpayers money on heat, electric and other utilities, the application states.
"With the increasing costs of government and the shifting of our demographics, our borough cannot afford to complete this project on our own," Burrell wrote in the application. Further, she wrote, "This building is part of our legacy. We want to do what we can to maintain it in the present in order to keep our past."