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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2019:05:29 10:10:19

MARK MORAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER More than $1 million in renovations have been completed at Pittston City Hall, including accessibility upgrades and safety improvements.

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2019:05:29 09:49:00

MARK MORAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Pittston City Hall City Administrator Joe Moskovitz sits in his newly renovated office at city hall.

Today Pittston City Hall is a modern building with energy efficient ceiling tiles, LED lighting, new wiring and new energy saving plumbing, heating and air conditioning. There’s a new Americans with Disabilities Act compliant elevator and ramps offering complete accessibility to disabled citizens. The building has new doors throughout, 32 cameras monitored at three points and tied into the police.

The police have their own entrance and a new interrogation room and holding cell, which are hidden from the main hall and front entrance. The magistrate’s office is now accessible directly from the outside through a private and safe entrance way.

Mayor Michael Lombardo said everything was designed for both “form and function.” For example, the new interior doors are designed for energy efficiency and public safety.

The renovation project began during the Klush administration.

“We looked at it five years ago,” Lombardo said, “Went though every office, asking is it viable for the future?”

Job one was putting the mayor’s office on the first floor to enhance accessibility and visibility, upgrading it and adding a second entrance directly from the parking lot for visitors, including Pennsylvania governors.

“That’s not a what if,” Lombardo said. “The last several governors have been here. Now, when we next have an important meeting, they can come right in.”

The $1.2 million, three-phase rehabilitation of city hall was paid for by a low-interest loan and money saved from energy efficiency. For example, the Streetscape LED lighting saves $78,000 per year.

From the outside, city hall looks a lot like it did when Mayor Kenneth English spearheaded the long overdue construction in 1939-40. The city had acquired the city hall lot, known as the Troxell lot, in 1909, to build a new city hall to replace the original on Water Street, which was built in 1853. But it took 30 years until the English administration was able to get it done. Though English was, at the time, the city’s youngest mayor, he was well-connected to Washington and he was probably over qualified as mayor. He served in the Army Corps at American University, worked for the war department and got a law degree from Georgetown.

At the same time he had impeccable Pittston bonafides: he had worked as a reporter for the Pittston Gazette and he lived in the house where he was born at 171 William St.

The steel-reinforced foundation for the new city hall was poured on Jan. 3, 1939, the beginning of 15 months of work. On Jan. 24, a huge crane from Pine Brook Ironworks in Scranton began placing 90 tons of steel girders for the superstructure. When the last girder was placed on March 1, workers hoisted a large American flag atop it to celebrate. The first consignment of bricks and the white marble for the front entrance arrived March 16. The steel vault door arrived in September.

There were setbacks. The contractors had to divert and enclose in concrete a creek which carried surface water and sewage from the Butler Tunnel to the river. A new 24-inch cast iron pipe replaced a smaller terra cotta system. A Christopher Columbus statue had to be moved from the site to a lot adjacent to the Roosevelt School.

The new city hall, decorated with flags and flower festoons, was dedicated May 22, 1940. A stage and bleachers were erected out front on Broad Street. The Pittston High School band and the St. John’s High School glee club entertained with patriotic songs.

The main speaker was Mayor English, who said: “These exercises remind us of achievements or our predecessors in our beloved city and the glorious civic legacy they have bequeathed us.”

Coon & Barrett, architects from Scranton, designed the building. The general contractor was William J. Crunden, also from Scranton. Winners of other bids were: HVAC and plumbing, Gus Weinberger, Old Forge; electrical, Popky Engineering, Wilkes-Barre; furnishings, Kelly & Mullin, South Main in Pittston. Total cost was $125,922. The federal government provided all the money: 45 percent from outright grants through the Work Projects Administration and, 55 percent from a low interest 25-year loan. The WPA was represented at the dedication by Edmund Burke, a WPA employee from West Pittston.

jsmiles@pittstonprogress.com