August 18, 2021

PLAINS TWP. — It looks like the Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority will have a new home next year.

On Tuesday, the authority board approved the $565,000 purchase of a property at 1989 Wyoming Ave. in Forty Fort, where the authority plans to relocate its office and “command center,” authority Executive Director Christopher Belleman said.

The move will result in “significant reductions in our housing costs,” Belleman told board members.

The property, owned by Cecily Sesler, of Erie, was formerly used as a state police training center, Belleman said. It is adjacent to the authority’s levee maintenance garage near the Forty Fort sports complex, he said.

The board approved the execution of a sales agreement contingent on the authority obtaining financing. Belleman and board member Richard Adams said they are confident that will not be an issue.

“We are currently pursuing and evaluating financing options for the purchase and proposed improvements to the Forty Fort address,” Belleman wrote in a follow-up email.

The authority will remain in its present location on Laird Street in Plains Twp., where it has rented office and warehouse space since 2016, for at least the rest of this year.

It must provide 90 days’ notice if it intends to vacate, Belleman said. Also, while the Forty Fort building is in good shape, the interior “will need to be modified to best fit the administrative needs of the authority,” he said.

The sales agreement stipulates the authority will pay $5,000 per month in rent the first four months at the Forty Fort location.

The estimated settlement date for the purchase is Nov. 11.

At the Laird Street site, the authority pays $3,724 per month to lease 3,032 square feet for administrative offices. It also pays $3,236 per month to lease 10,000 square feet of warehouse space to house equipment and supplies.

The purchase will help the authority’s long-term financial position, Belleman said.

The authority will build equity in a property it owns rather than renting space, he said.

Also, the property includes about 2,000 square feet of space that can be leased out, to achieve further savings, Belleman said.

“We are positioning the authority to obtain significant savings in our housing costs, which will benefit our ratepayers,” he wrote.

The authority maintains a 16-mile flood protection system along the Susquehanna River. Its sole source of income is a levee maintenance fee paid by property owners in a designated flood plain.