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County Hall Corner: County Government on the Move

A new day is coming. The Lycoming County Commissioners had their last weekly meeting at the Lycoming County Executive Plaza at 330 Pine Street in Williamsport on Thursday, June 27th. The following Thursday will be July 4th, so obviously, there will not be a meeting that day. Still, the following Thursday, July 11th, will be the ribbon-cutting for the new county government headquarters — Third Street Plaza, directly across the street from the Lycoming County Courthouse.

For seven years I have gone to hundreds of these meetings at the Executive Plaza, only missing when I was out of town or dealing with health issues. For the first couple of years, I attended both the work sessions on Tuesdays and the regular meetings on Thursdays. Many of the same people showed up week after week (mostly county department heads), and we almost always sat in the same seats each week. I always sat in the second row, which was close enough to see what was going on but not up front, drawing too much attention. However, I had to use my lap for my laptop computer given that I was sitting on a chair with no table, a challenge to be sure.

Something good came out of the COVID days, as the Tuesday work sessions ended, and the long table in the back of the room was almost never used. I decided to claim it for the regular meetings. To make it look a little more official, I made a little nameplate, which I put on the table in front of me that said, “Webb Weekly – County Hall Corner.”

Before long, the Sun-Gazette reporters decided that if Webb Weekly could have a table to work from, why not them? Before long, other local news sources would pop in from time to time, which resulted in the table being known as the “Press Table,” or as one solicitor called us, “The Fourth Estate.” It has been a helpful location not just to have a table to use a laptop computer but also for practical purposes. Very often, the presenters who are reading from a script would give us copies as soon as they walk in the door, and likewise, we can catch someone before they go out the door to answer a question or clarify a point they might have brought up.

Quite frankly, I am going to miss the Executive Plaza meeting room. The commissioners have an impressive platform in the front of the room. It has a very long elevated table that has a large seal of the county and seats the three commissioners, the director of administration, and the county solicitor. Each of these has nameplates in front of them, and behind them are the flags of the United States, Pennsylvania, and Lycoming County. The background also has dark maroon drapes, which match the color of the fifty chairs available for those who attend. The whole room speaks of authority with dignity.

In the past few years, they have also improved their tech tools, such as streaming and presentations with a large screen where everyone can clearly see the material presented. For old people like me who have hearing issues, each of the commissioners has a microphone, and others who address the commissioners are required to stand behind a podium that also has a mic.

The Lycoming County Commissioners could have their meetings in a basement with folding chairs and still accomplish their responsibilities. But a dignified environment draws our respect and recognition of importance. The three Lycoming County Commissioners must deal with over 500 personnel and a budget of over $100 million. The decisions they make impact thousands of people throughout our area, with repercussions for decades to come.

Which brings us back to the new county government headquarters at the Third Street Plaza. For those who have never been to a meeting, they will now be on the third floor (making it easy to remember — third floor on the Third Street Plaza). The meetings are always held at 10:00 a.m. on Thursdays except for holidays. The new building for the county government is quite impressive, and future articles will highlight it. And if you should attend a county commissioner meeting in person, stop by and say ‘hi’ to the old guy in the back of the room with the computer and a little name plate that says, “Webb Weekly – County Hall Corner.”

It will be a different environment and will take a little time to adjust to. At first, it will seem awkward, then tolerable, and eventually, it will become normal. But even through the shakedown in the initial days ahead, I am sure it will become a place of dignity with authority.