Here’s the latest from the social media rumor mills: Lycoming County reportedly intends to take over the Alvira property, which houses the church and cemetery, and then demolish both.
District officials have assured the Sun Gazette that the rumor is false.
While the county has been negotiating to buy the land from the federal government for around 20 years, its goal has always been to get the church and cemetery standing and open to the public.
“I’m a bit at a loss as to why there’s a rumor that the status of the cemetery and church is changing,” said Matt McDermot, district administration director. “For years, when we first began having discussions with (the Federal Prisons Office) and the GSA, it has always been important to ensure that the church and cemetery remain intact and that public access is allowed. … That has never changed, so I just find it interesting that new rumors are popping up.”
Since its opening, the county’s landfill has been on property owned by the Federal Bureau of Prison.
“There is a special use permit from FBOP to use the land that the actual landfill sits on.” said McDermott.
The bureau approached the county to draft a transfer of the property where the church and cemetery are located, he explained. The agreement would be a purchase upon completion – but until estimates are finalized it’s premature to talk about costs, McDermott said.
Commissioner Rick Mirabito agreed that the county has been negotiating to acquire the land for some time, but noted the historical importance of the Alvira estate and the importance of preserving the church and cemetery.
Alvira was a village of about 500 people near Allenwood. In 1942, the federal government ordered the relocation of the people living there, confiscated their belongings, and then demolished the buildings to make way for a weapons depot. The buildings of the depot as well as the village church and the cemetery are still standing today.
Negotiations have begun between the county and the federal government for the property to annex the property adjacent to the landfill.
Mirabito noted that the county has been very open about this.
“I can’t imagine a commissioner voting to tear down the church,” said Mirabito.
Commissioner Scott Metzger agreed.
“No, we will not dig up cemeteries and tear down churches” said butcher.