If York is going to remain the county seat, let it actually serve as the seat of county government. The same arguments that applied to keeping the York County Courthouse in downtown York also apply to putting the new county administration building there.
The County Council recently was presented with four building site options for the ad building, three of them near the site of the current office building along South Congress Street in the heart of downtown. But the fourth possible site would be a “Government Center West” near the York Electric Co-op on the corner of Arrow Road and Alexander Love Highway.
The fourth option would cost nearly a million less than the cheapest of the other three options, according to consultants with Cumming Construction Management. And while the buildings would be roughly the same size in each case, the fourth option would offer a site with a bigger footprint – 15 acres as opposed to 3 or 4 acres downtown – on which to build.
Last year, the council had a similar decision to make regarding the location of the county courthouse. Should the county renovate the historic courthouse in downtown York or build an extension to the Moss Justice Center on York Highway?
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Proponents of moving the courthouse out of downtown York said it would be more convenient for residents, cost less than retrofitting the old courthouse and produce a more modern, efficient building. Residents of York argued that the courthouse was essential to commerce in downtown York and the economic survival of the town.
Those who favored renovation also argued that the courthouse is an iconic structure, nearly a century old, that couldn’t be replicated anywhere else. It’s part of the historic heart of the city.
In the end, the issue was easy to resolve. In November, consultants came back with estimates showing that renovating the old courthouse would be cheaper than building on another site, and the council approved the renovation.
Now the issue is the county administration building, and the same issues have taken center stage. If the location of government offices is moved, scores of county workers will be relocated out of town.
That would be devastating for local restaurants and other businesses that rely on those workers as regular customers. Economic activity downtown would dry up, according to residents.
We think those are essential considerations in making this decision, despite the potential of slightly higher construction costs. The county doesn’t want a blighted county seat.
York Mayor Eddie Lee also hinted that the city might block attempts to rezone the proposed Arrow Road site. Lee told the County Council that the property now is zoned agricultural, and the City Council might be reluctant to change the zoning if it means moving government offices out of town.
We hope it doesn’t come to that. We hope the city and county can come to an agreement without resorting to those tactics.
But we agree with those who say county business should be centered in York. That was the case with the courthouse, and it’s also the case with the government office building.