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Lackawanna buys site to replace 'orange milk crate on stilts'

Lackawanna's City Hall annex, built about 1968 in front of the original City Hall building.

An era is coming to a close in Lackawanna. Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski's term limits end Dec. 31 and he is looking for a new job. However, Szymanski will be much happier when he leaves office, now that a site has been chosen to relocate City Hall administrative offices from the "big orange milk crate on stilts" on Ridge Road.

Lackawanna has agreed to purchase the Knights of Columbus at 2838 South Park Ave., down the street from Our Lady of Victory Elementary School and Basilica, as the new home for about 35 city employees, including the mayor, controller and law department. The cost of purchase agreed to by the City Council Wednesday evening was $315,000.

Szymansky said City Hall's orange annex, built about 1968 in front of the original brick City Hall building, is too large for Lackawanna's needs and has outlived its usefulness.

"The studies show that our building is just shot. Environmentally and some structural challenges, there are so many problems with that building that it's just not worth investing in," he said, "and I've been looking at different opportunities for that building to repurpose it and everything just came up as financially inefficient to do so, so we started looking at other buildings throughout our city."

Szymanski said studies also looked at moving police and the city courts from the original City Hall building to a new location, but that cost too much. They will remain on Ridge Road.

Credit Knights of Columbus
The Knights of Columbus at 2838 South park Ave. has been purchased by the City of Lackawanna.

He said now that the new site has been purchased, the city can take its time to get public input on construction options, which he figures wil be in the range of $4-$5 million once the move is complete, and take 3-4 years.

"You're going to have to demolish the orange building, but you're also going to have to retrofit the original building and then you're going to have to retrofit the current building, so the cost is still out there," Szymanski said. "We know that the Knights building has some challenges, but those are challenges that we can accept, regarding the roof and some the asbestos that has to be abated."

He said other benefits of the K of C building include its one-floor layout, it is handicapped accessible and on a bus route.

Szymanski has been working on the project for more than five years said he and has been working with City Council President Annette Iafallo to see the project through. Iafallo is also seeking the mayor's position this election.