Lancaster Public Works operations center map

Lancaster officials say they’re finally ready to go ahead with building the Department of Public Works’ much-delayed operations center.

The project, expected to cost $10 million, has been in the works “for five to seven years at least,” city director of administrative services Patrick Hopkins said. “We want to get it done.”

The 35,000-square-foot operations center and its parking lot will take up about one-fifth of a 13-acre site the city owns in northeastern Lancaster Township, where Grofftown Road turns into Riverside Avenue.

The facility will house about 70 public works employees and will have space for storing and maintaining city vehicles.

A second, smaller parking lot will be built for a nature trail along the Conestoga River, part of the proposed Northeast Greenway Trail system.

Two years ago, public works Director Charlotte Katzenmoyer estimated a construction cost for the center of $5 million.

When the city recently put the project out to bid, it came back at $7.8 million, Hopkins said. A vehicle fueling station, plus site work and other expenses push the total project cost to $10 million.

Another $1 million is needed to fund an escrow account as part of the agreement with the township. The city will get that money back, Hopkins said.

At Monday’s City Council committee meeting, Hopkins presented a plan to budget the money from various city funds. The plan is defined in four resolutions that council is scheduled to vote on this coming Tuesday.

In some cases, money has been saved from earlier projects, Hopkins said; in others, it’s being taken from pending projects that can be delayed or funded from other sources later on.

“A lot of this is timing,” he said.

The city expects to start roadway work in April and site work this summer, Katzenmoyer said. If things go as planned, construction should take about 18 months, meaning it would be finished around the end of 2019.

The city had originally planned to move its public works operations to the former National Guard armory on Chesapeake Street.

But it shifted its focus to the Riverside Avenue site after turning over the armory to Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in 2014 . Stevens expects to open its Greiner Center there this fall.

Lancaster Township initially denied the city’s request to rezone the site in fall 2014. The city has spent the ensuing years getting the various approvals it needs.

At present, vehicle maintenance takes place at 515 N. Franklin St., the former Farmers Supply building, which the city is leasing.

It moved employees there a little over a year ago from the city’s Engleside building at 750 Fairview Ave., which was falling apart.

“I can’t overstate how long of a process this has been,” Councilman James Reichenbach said.

Hopkins concurred, saying: “It absolutely made the project more expensive than it needed to be.”

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