Former Ligonier Borough building set for auction block; firefighters plan to bid

·3 min read

Jan. 14—Those who attend the Jan. 29 auction of the former Ligonier borough building on Fairfield Street can expect to see members of Ligonier Volunteer Hose Company No. 1 on hand.

"Our hope at this point is to try to buy the building at that auction," Ligonier fire Chief Corey Blystone said. "We use it on a daily basis."

Local police moved from the two-story stone building at 112 N. Fairfield at the beginning of 2019 when the borough force joined with its counterpart in neighboring Ligonier Township to form the Ligonier Valley Police Department.

Other borough operations are housed in Ligonier's Town Hall, completed in 1969, at the town's central Diamond intersection.

But the fire department houses two of its vehicles — a utility truck and an antique 1927 American LaFrance Cosmopolitan engine — in the Fairfield Street building's pair of first-floor garage bays.

And Blystone said a second-­floor meeting room "gets a decent amount of use" for the department's training sessions and monthly meetings, and it hosts activities for groups such as the Boy Scouts.

Borough officials have noted it doesn't make financial sense for the town to hold onto the property, which includes a small rear parking area.

"It's costing the borough to keep that building open," Mayor Ormond "Butch" Bellas said. It wasn't deemed large enough to house the new combined police force, he said.

Blystone said his 30-member department had been discussing the future of the property with borough officials for about a year.

Borough Solicitor George Welty said one of the options could have been selling the building directly to the fire department for a nominal amount. Under such a transaction, he said, the borough code requires that the property revert to the municipality once it is no longer used by the firefighters.

The reversion clause made that option unacceptable for the department, Blystone said.

"We could put a lot of money into it, and someday that would go back to the borough," he said. "We're hopeful of being able to get it (outright) at the auction."

If that doesn't happen, Blystone said, it would be difficult to squeeze two extra vehicles into the firehall across the street that already houses three firetrucks.

As for meetings, he said, the department might have to look elsewhere in town for a space or "maybe we could pull the truck out of the firehall. We'd have to try to get creative."

The Fairfield Street borough building was constructed in 1937 under the auspices of the federal Works Progress Administration, as noted on a plaque displayed on the structure's facade.

The first floor includes two small jail cells.

"There was a bank vault for evidence and old-fashioned jail cell doors that you don't see anymore," said John Berger, Ligonier Valley police chief who previously was chief of the borough force.

Unity-based auctioneer Mark Ferry, who is conducting the auction, noted a bell on the roof of the building and a civil defense siren, housed in an adjacent cupola, will be retained by the borough.

On the side of the building facing Bank Alley, there is a seal that was placed in 1954 by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey as a benchmark for use by surveyors, Ferry said.

The auction will begin at 2 p.m. in the Town Hall community room.

Before bids are taken for the Fairfield Street building, Ferry will auction off a 26-acre property the borough owns off Nature Run Road in Ligonier Township.

The acreage had been considered for development of an auxiliary water reservoir, but that project never came to fruition, Bellas said.

An auction was the option the borough chose for selling the two properties. Bellas said council is expected to decide at the time of the auction whether to accept the winning bids.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, or via Twitter .

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