A Pennsylvania House bill sponsored by state Rep. Russ Diamond concerning the future of the former lieutenant governor’s residence on the grounds of Fort Indiantown Gap has been advanced to the state Senate for consideration.
If passed by the Senate, the bill would expand options for the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs (DMVA) to reutilize the three-story, 2,400-square-foot stone house, which served as the lieutenant governor’s residence since 1971, when it was converted to this role from being the governor’s summer home
The late Ernest “Ernie” Kline was the first lieutenant governor to occupy the residence. The Kline family moved to Palmyra following his time in office.
In October 2019, following Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s decision to not occupy the house, the residence was turned over to the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs for the purpose of supporting Pennsylvania’s veterans programs as well as current and survivor families of the Pennsylvania National Guard.
PennLive previously reported that the residence had cost from $100,000 to $400,000 each year to maintain, depending on occupancy. It had been the only state-sponsored second-in-command housing in the country.
Although some interpreted the Diamond bill as clearing the path for the Lebanon County legislator to occupy the State House if successful in his current bid for lieutenant governor, that is not the case.
“There is zero chance that it will resume its former use for the Lieutenant Governor, as it is fully under the control of the DMVA at this time,” said Diamond in an email to LebTown. “At any rate, I would see no point in living there myself even if it were available, as I reside in a beautiful limestone home just 8 miles away in Annville.”
Diamond explained, and DMVA officials confirmed, that plans for a veterans outreach center proved to be cost-prohibitive given the necessity of making the building accessible.
“The former Lt. Governor’s Residence was transferred to the PA Department of Military and Veterans Affairs with the enactment of ACT 110 of 2019,” said DMVA communications director Joan Zlogar Nissley in an email to LebTown. “Currently, the department is restricted to using the facility to support veteran programs and National Guard and survivor families.”
Nissley said that DMVA engineers conducted a preliminary review of the building and determined that making the facility ADA compliant would be cost prohibitive.
“Therefore, the DMVA is seeking a change in legislation to enable flexibility on how the former Lt Gov Residence can be used,” said Nissley.
Nissley said that the Army Corps of Engineers is assisting DMVA in reviewing the physical plant at the Gap and will be incorporating the residence into the base’s facility usage master plan.
In 2019, under Lt. Gov. Fetterman’s direction, the pool at the residence was opened for use by various organizations within the state. Second Lady Gisele Fetterman headed the project and showed LebTown around the complex in 2019.
Second Lady Fetterman accepted requests from nonprofits, summer camps and organizations that serve groups that normally wouldn’t have access to a swimming pool to be guests at the facility to swim that year. She also oversaw a water safety education program at the pool. The coronavirus pandemic shuttered the program in 2020 but it returned last summer.
Lt. Gov. Fetterman previously said that he expects the swimming program to continue indefinitely.
Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using the contact form below and we’ll do our best to get back to you.
Do you support local news?
If you believe that Lebanon County needs independent, high-quality journalism, consider joining LebTown as a member. Your support will go directly towards stories like this and you will be helping ensure that our community has a reliable news source for years to come.
Learn more about membership and join now here.