After well over an hour of debate about the cost, commissioners voted 5-4 to spend $750,000 to renovate six apartment units in the Cumberland Gardens housing project in south Allentown -- for use by individuals with mental illnesses “and/or substance abuse disorders.”

County Executive Matthew Croslis did a little math, telling commissioners the $750,000 comes out to $125,000 per unit. “Over 30 years, that’s $347 a month in rent. We’re going to be locking in rent for 30 years. And $347 a month is good rent; that’s half of market.”

Voting no were Schware, Scheller, Vic Mazziotti and Ott.

“We’re talking about completely gutting buildings that are 45 years old, at a cost of $240,000 per unit,” said Schware. “Something’s wrong there. If that isn’t an indictment on a system that is broken, I don’t know what is. I don’t want to be a part of it with my vote tonight.”

Schware said he’s surprised that city residents, who paid less than that for homes, including many more than 100 years old, “don’t come down here with pitchforks and torches and ask us what the hell we’re doing.”

Land sale approved

Commissioners also approved selling a county-owned property in the 500 block of Hamilton Street for $230,000 to City Center Investment Corp.

The county owns less than a quarter of the .63-acre vacant property, where a building housing county offices once stood next to the long-gone Colonial movie theater. The rest of the property is owned by the Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Corporation.

The center city developer plans to erect a new five-story building, called Three City Center, on the site. The sale price, including the county’s share, is $1 million.