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Scranton Council Meeting

November 3, 2017 GMT

Scranton took steps Thursday to give the Civil War museum in the basement of City Hall a one-year lease. City council voted 5-0 — with President Joe Wechsler, Wayne Evans, Pat Rogan, Tim Perry and Bill Gaughan all in favor — to introduce an ordinance from Mayor Bill Courtright for a one-year lease for the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Association to continue using parts of the basement of the Municipal Building at 340 N. Washington Ave. as a museum. The nonprofit museum’s 10-year lease expires Nov. 28, the ordinance says. It gets the space for a nominal amount. A debate among council members and city building-maintenance employee Paul O’Hora pits the museum against the city’s need for more space for voluminous governmental records. O’Hora told council that City Hall, formally called the Municipal Building, is “maxed out” on records storage and needs more space, and the museum occupies the two best rooms in the basement. Most city records under city code must be stored for certain lengths of time, such as two, five or 10 years, and the Law Department needs an archives room, he said. “No one is disputing the good of that museum,” O’Hora said. “But last I checked, the front of this building says ‘municipal,’ not ‘museum’ ... if we want to do a good thing, we should look to find a place for them (the museum)” somewhere else. Perry said that if the city does not have room for the both the museum and records, he’d rather see the museum stay put and records go elsewhere off-site. “It’s probably easier for us to find somewhere to hold our records, but we have a year to figure that out,” Perry said. Gaughan said he’ll make a motion next week to amend the lease legislation for a five-year term. “The museum has been there for 10 years. I believe it serves the community very well and I think that they should stay there,” Gaughan said. Wechsler favors having the museum stay in the basement, but also supports a one-year lease that can be extended later if necessary. A one-year lease will force the city to take care of the museum and find a repository for records, Wechsler said. Evans agreed with that approach. Saying “digitizing” certain records may be a solution, Rogan added, “It’s 2017. We shouldn’t have boxes and boxes of paper being stored in City Hall.” In another matter, the Lackawanna County property tax reassessment ballot question in Tuesday’s election was discussed. In a 2-1 county court ruling Tuesday, judges declared the ballot question on borrowing up to $13 million for reassessment null and void. On Wednesday, the county appealed that ruling to Commonwealth Court. As of Thursday, it had not rendered a decision. Evans said he will make a motion at next week’s council meeting calling for the city to sue the county to force it to conduct a reassessment. “It’s time to get off the sidelines and get in the game,” Evans said. Contact the writer: jlockwood@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5185; @jlockwoodTT on Twitter