Washington Township’s new municipal complex will open for business June 5
The windows don’t leak when it rains. There aren’t any skunks or groundhogs under the building. The foundation isn’t sinking. The floors aren’t rotting. It smells fresh and clean, not moldy and mildewy.
Washington Township’s new $5.5 million municipal complex at 11798 Buchanan Trail East, Waynesboro, will be a 180-degree change from the current offices on Welty Road.
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Township offices will be closed from May 30 to June 2 for the 2-mile move to the new 12,120-square-foot headquarters of the municipal government and the police department.
The new building will open for business at 8 a.m. Monday, June 5. A grand opening will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, June 15, when a ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled at 10:30 a.m.
“It will be the answer for Washington Township for many years to come,” said Jeff Geesaman, township manager.
What’s the backstory on the offices?
A new municipal building has been discussed “forever” — in earnest since 2003 — and “we really couldn’t keep putting it off,” Geesaman said.
The government and police department have been operating out of a hodge-podge of buildings for years.
The front building, constructed for the township in the late 1980s, was added onto at some point and has been used as the police station.
The first of several temporary trailers was installed around 2003, with “temporary being the key word. They’ve outlived their life,” Geesaman said.
“The temporary trailers are falling down. We’ll get rid of them,” he said.
The maintenance department will move into the old police department building. Employees will have a place to sleep when they work long hours plowing snow and they’ll get more storage and a break area.
Eventually, another building for roads and maintenance will be constructed at the new location since there is plenty of room on the 3.7-acre property.
What is the new township office like?
Local philanthropist Alma Oyer got the ball rolling when she contacted the police department and offered the lot.
“We told her about the plan, she thought it was great and here we are,” said Geesaman, who noted she was paid $1 for the property.
The site is in the heart of the township’s population area and closer to Pine Hill Recreation Area and the trash transfer station. Although the mailing address is Waynesboro, it is known locally as Rouzerville.
The project has stayed true to the original $5.5 million projected cost. The township received a $2 million state grant, had banked $1.5 million over many years, borrowed the remainder and is paying off the loan with reserves, not a tax increase.
“It’s going to be pretty nice from what we’ve had to work with forever. It’s laid out to really handle this kind of business,” Geesaman said.
The first noticeable improvement is a secure entryway. The front door will be open during business hours and people will be able to enter the lobby, but from there they will need to be buzzed in.
“There was no security in the other building,” Geesaman said.
The new structure is well-built, energy efficient and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant.
On the administrative side, the space and storage improvements are evident.
The township has to keep a lot of records and filing cabinets, many of them fireproof, are spaced throughout, as is all the other new, matching furniture.
“We’ve never had new furniture,” Geesaman said. The township has used a mish-mash of furniture that was donated or purchased when other businesses closed.
The meeting room is equipped with technology to display information on big screens and conduct Zoom meetings.
It adjoins a conference room, where supervisors can go for executive session. That’s a welcome feature since for years, the public or the supervisors have had to vacate the meeting room and go somewhere with no place to sit. Most of the rooms are soundproof, too.
There’s a designated work station near the offices of the receptionist and administrative assistants for printers, the fax machine and postal meter, with space to stuff envelopes.
Near the back of the building is the large planning and zoning office.
The building inspector’s and tax collector’s offices are located nearby with their own entrance, since their hours may differ from the main township office.
A break room with tables, chairs and refrigerators is shared with the police department and there is a courtyard in the back.
How is the police space customized for law enforcement?
The police department is earning accreditation from the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association and “we couldn’t make the old building work” to security and records storage standards, Geesaman said.
In addition to several individual offices, the police side of the building includes a conference room, squad room and men’s and women’s locker rooms.
There’s a processing room for fingerprints and other investigative processes, complete with sink, eyewash station and fuming hood to suck out chemicals; storage and evidence rooms with a secure area for drugs, jewelry and money; and an armory room for storing and working on guns.
A number of features are specifically designed for police work. There’s a “soft” interview room for victims and witnesses and a “hard” interview room for suspects, where handcuffs can be attached to the metal table. Handcuffs and leg shackles also can be attached to a bench in the squad room. The bathroom for prisoners is designed so they can’t lock themselves inside or harm themselves. Police cars can enter an enclosed area known as a sallyport at the rear so prisoners cannot escape.
All the cruisers can be parked in a carport at the back of the building, protecting their IT equipment such as computers and cameras. It is accessed via a gate that closes automatically.
Why is this the ‘last hurrah’ for Jeff Geesaman?
There’s more changing for Washington Township than the address.
Overseeing the construction of the building was the “last hurrah” for Geesaman, who will retire as township manager on July 28.
“I’ve lived here for 68 years. I have a little bit of a connection to the township,” he said.
He was with the township’s public works department for four years, beginning in 1979, then spent most of his working years in construction. Geesaman served on the Washington Township Municipal Authority 16 years and became a township supervisor in 2010.
He was supervisor for 5 1/2 years, before being hired as assistant manager in July 2015 and replaced long-time Manager Mike Christopher when he retired in June 2017.
“I told the board I would stay eight years when I became manager,” Geesaman said.
A plan of succession is in place with Vernon Ashway, assistant manager, set to take over for Geesaman. A former township police officer, Ashway served as township zoning officer before being promoted to assistant manager in 2022.
Ashway will move directly into the manager’s office in the new building since Geesaman’s retirement is so close.
In retirement, Geesaman plans to hunt, shoot sporting clays, spend time with his six grandchildren ranging in age from 2 to 14 and go camping with his wife, Patti.
He has agreed to return part-time as needed for special projects, such as bridges.
Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at email@example.com.