Commissioner: New board will decide on Susquehanna St. Project
The Carbon County Commissioners will let their successors decide the fate of the controversial Susquehanna Street building project.
Jim Thorpe residents have filed a lawsuit to block the proposed parking garage/office building project on the basis that it could damage the historic St. Mark’s & St. John’s church building.
Tuesday’s primary election results guaranteed that at least two of the incumbent commissioners will be replaced at the end of the year.
Commissioner William O’Gurek, who did not seek re-election this year, said during Thursday’s commissioners’ meeting that the new board should decide the project’s fate.
“When there are new people sitting in these chairs, we think they ought to be the ones who have governance and jurisdiction over what that project should look like, and how that project should proceed,” he said.
However O’Gurek said the commissioners will continue to work on a project to renovate the county archives, located on the same stretch of Susquehanna Street as the proposed building project.
“It’s something that we think is part of it one way or another, and something we think we should move on,” O’Gurek said.
Wayne Nothstein, who is running for another term as commissioner, supports holding off on the Susquehanna Street project until the new board takes office. He said construction would not have begun until 2020 anyway.
“We don’t want to waste that time and money either. So good luck with the new board,” he said.
However Nothstein warned that the county and neighbors may need to take action to shore up a retaining wall which supporting part of the mountain along Susquehanna Street. Nothstein said parts of the wall are falling down.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard lost his reelection bid, meaning Nothstein is the only commissioner who may return next year. Nothstein won one of the two Republican nominations to be on the ballot this fall.
Last month the commissioners announced they would change the project to avoid excavating part of Flagstaff Mountain behind the proposed building.
The commissioners had awarded bids for the project, but they canceled them because of a pending lawsuit filed by a group of residents known as SOS: Save Our Sanctuaries.
SOS member Mary Shorten said she is fine with the decision to remove the second floor from the archives building as long as the county does not interfere with the retaining wall behind it.
“As advanced as we are, nobody knows how to do this stuff anymore safely,” she said.
This story will be updated.