Courthouse Annex Surprises Many; Impacts ALF, Farmer's Market, Church

annex-sideCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Plans for a proposed $8 million annex to the Clarion County Courthouse unveiled Tuesday night caught many people by surprise, including three leaders of activities that would be directly impacted by the abandonment of Jefferson Place between Main Street and Madison Road to accommodate the construction of the new annex.

Pastor Jake Jacobson of Grace Lutheran Church on Madison Road received no advance notice from the County Commissioners and predicts the decision will present a hardship for his church.

“I understand the county’s dilemma, and I understand the choice of locations,” said Rev. Jacobson.  “What has me upset is that the commissioners did not have the integrity to inform me prior to a public announcement.  I have known all of them for almost 30 years and it was a great disappointment.”

“The building will present a hardship for us as a church.  We will no longer be visible. Main Street access to the church will be eliminated, and we will lose one half of the current parking.  This will possibly have a devastating effect on our ability to function as we have.  We will need to see if we will survive this into the future.”

Tracy Becker, executive director of the Clarion Chamber of Business and Industry, had no hint of the plans until reading it Wednesday morning on, but doesn’t want to stop progress even if it requires changes in the Autumn Leaf Festival carnival attractions.

“When I read the article and watched the video, I understand what they’re doing and when it comes down to it, the chamber is all about progress, and we can’t step in the way of progress,” said Becker.  “We’re going to sit down and talk with the commissioners and look at what kind of time frame they are looking at to have everything happen, so we have an idea of what we need to do in regard to the Festival.  We’ll need to sit down with our group and figure out from there what we’re going to do and what changes may need to happen and things like that.”

“When you look at the possibility of moving 60 jobs outside of Clarion Borough, it is a concern.  We just had a meeting last week with area businesses, and we need the businesses here in the downtown area, and we need the workers here to support the downtown businesses.  I understand why they are looking at what they are doing, and it’s all about progress.  We’ll work with them, and we’ll work with the borough in regard to what we are going to have to do for the festival.  In regard to making the courthouse more accessible to everyone, that’s important, and keeping our workers here in the community, that’s important.”

Elise Dietz, director of the Farmer’s Market held on Saturday mornings from May to October in the county parking lot, also faces possible changes.

“I didn’t know anything about it until I saw the story this morning,” said Dietz. “It caught me by surprise, and we will have to talk with the commissioners to see what the impact might be. We would hate to have to move out of Clarion Borough and some people have asked why we don’t move back to the park.  That’s really inconvenient for the Farmer’s Market members because they like to be able to work out of their vehicles, so they don’t have to unload everything one time, move their vehicles, and then park.”

“To move somewhere else would be a problem, and there probably aren’t a whole lot of spaces in town that are similar to that we could use.”

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