Hazleton, PA – Hazleton City Council voted unanimously to lease the former post office on East Broad Street to Lackawanna College during a brief special meeting Monday afternoon. Details of the lease agreement are still being negotiated. However, council President Joe Yannuzzi said discussions have centered on a five-year agreement, with possible incremental renewals.
The price has not been firmed up, but $12,000 monthly is the starting point. “Whatever we get will be a plus,” Councilwoman Evelyn Graham said after the meeting.
Lackawanna College will move its Act 120 Police Training Academy into the building. The building was the Luzerne County Courthouse Annex for almost 20 years, starting in the late ’80s under the administration of then-Mayor John Ford and ending in September 2005. County officials discovered what they termed a mold problem and moved out.
When the county moved to Warren Street in West Hazleton, the city started tossing around ideas about what to do with it. Initially, plans were to move the police station there. But it didn’t have the money for completion and, about a month ago, started soliciting development proposals.
While some spots of the building need refurbishing, it is structurally sound and has undergone some extensive remodeling within the past few years. The Graham Foundation – the non-profit group operated by Evelyn Graham – spent $172,000 putting a new roof and windows into the building. In 2004, the city had a new heating system installed at a cost of $37,600. One of its major features is that it can burn either oil or natural gas – whichever one is cheaper and in more plentiful supply at any give time.
How serious the mold problem was remains in dispute. The city hired JMSI Environmental Corp. of Swoyersville to look at it the day after the county moved out. Within a few days, it issued a report that stated the problem was very small. “JMSI is recommending that Microban be used to clean the small area of mold growth in the Juvenile Probation Office,” the report read. However, the county hired High Safety Consulting Services, Lancaster, to look at the problem.
Its four-page report, dated Oct. 27, 2005, found the problem fairly extensive. It was accompanied by 15 8-by-10 pictures of spots in the building where the firm states the mold infestation was particularly bad. Lackawanna College is expected to make revisions inside the building.
The building was built in 1914 and served as the city’s post office until the one on North Wyoming Street was built in the mid-1960s. Afterward, it came close to being demolished, as the city searched for possible use or tenant. But under Ford’s direction, the city took possession of the building. He pressed the county to put offices into the building and received a letter of intent from then-county commissioners Frank Trinisewski, Jim Phillips and Frank Crossin Jr. The building formally became the Courthouse Annex in November 1986. The building was later named the John Ford Courthouse Annex Building.
Long term exposure to some types of mold can cause permanent neurological, psychological, immunological and psychological damage. In any case, the building has since been cleaned thoroughly and hopefully the problem was resolved.