At last night’s first full meeting of 2021, Lebanon City Council approved a formal application for a $2 million grant that would help underwrite renovations and a police garage as part of the City’s plan to buy the Harrisburg Area Community College building and move City Hall downtown.

The grant would be provided through the Commonwealth’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, known as RACP, and had been tentatively approved last August.

City government offices have been in the Lebanon Municipal Building at 400 S. 8th Street since the 1960s, when they moved there from North 9th Street in downtown.

The City has agreed to sell its part of the Municipal Building to Lebanon County for $2.25 million, and plans to put the sale proceeds toward the purchase and renovation of the HACC building in the 700 block of Cumberland Street.

The purchase is expected to be completed by June 30, 2021. The City will pay HACC $2.2 million.

Mayor Sherry Capello hopes to obtain additional RACP grant money to build a “Transit Intermodal Center” near the HACC building. At last Thursday’s pre-Council meeting, she explained that it would “be a hub of transportation services – bus, taxi, bike, Uber, pedestrian.” The structure would consist of a public parking garage over a street level drive-through terminal.

“People could get right off and go right into City Hall,” Mayor Capello said. She added that Lebanon is the only Pennsylvania municipality with a population of 10,000 or more without a parking garage.

The estimated overall cost of the City’s relocation downtown is $6.7 million according to Capello.The funds will come from grants, the sale of the City’s part of the Municipal Building to the County, and a bond issue.

In other business last night

  • Council approved the reappointment of Martin Yocum to the City of Lebanon Authority for an additional five year term. He has served on the Authority since 2006.
  • Council passed a resolution authorizing the City to sign a reimbursement agreement with PennDOT for a new bridge on N. Lincoln Avenue over the Quittapahilla Creek. The total cost will be $2 million and the City will contribute $100,000. The state and federal governments will pay the balance. Capello reported that the bridge is safe, but has a reduced weight limit. Work is expected to start in 2024 and take about two months.
  • Council passed a resolution authorizing the destruction of various old records in the Office of Community and Economic Development. Capello said this is being done so they won’t have to be moved to the City’s new offices downtown. Old records are kept or disposed of in accordance with the Commonwealth’s guidelines for retention and destruction of municipal records.
  • On a first reading, Council passed an ordinance amending the City’s fire code to comply with the International Fire Code. The amendment places restrictions on the burning of flags and other objects at outdoor public gatherings, striking a balance between public safety and citizens’ First Amendment free speech rights. Permits, proper containers, fire extinguishers, and minimum distances from buildings will now be required.
  • The mayor gave council some preliminary year-end budget estimates. Revenue in 2020 was 105% of what had been budgeted, and expenses came in at 87% of projections. The same figures for 2019 were 110% and 91%, respectively. The mayor stressed that the 2020 figures were preliminary and subject to change. Final audit-ready figures aren’t expected for about two months.

Some good news on Walnut Street repaving

At last Thursday’s pre-Council meeting, Capello told Council that the end is in sight for the seemingly endless Walnut Street repaving project.

Removal of the old surface is scheduled to start in June, followed by traffic signal setup and the laying of a base layer in July. The finish layer is scheduled for the end of July. Line painting, cleanup, and miscellaneous work will, she hopes, complete the project in August.

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Chris Coyle

Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...