Commissioners Plan $8 Million Courthouse Annex

annex-front1CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – An $8 million plan for a three-story courthouse annex and renovation of the existing Clarion County Courthouse was unveiled Tuesday night at a meeting of the Clarion Borough Council.

Commissioners say the new annex is expected to save the taxpayers money and provide a long-term solution for space problems.

(Commissioners provide illustrations of the proposed annex by EADS Architects Inc.)

Clarion County Commissioners Wayne Brosius, Butch Campbell, and Greg Faller appeared at the council meeting to request consideration of the abandonment of Jefferson Place between Main Street and Madison Road to accommodate the construction of the new annex.

Council says it supported the concept and would proceed when the County was ready to move ahead with detailed drawings and financing.

The topic of the courthouse renovation greeted the current set of county commissioners when they took office, but additional challenges were thrown into the mix after an insurance inspection of the old jail that houses the Office of Emergency Services (OES) and 911.

“Our insurance company looked at it and told us that we needed to do something with the building or move out and find a new location or they weren’t going to cover our equipment,” says Brosius.   “A lot of our equipment is housed in the basement.  We’re having environmental and moisture issues.  The old jail has been obsolete for some time now.

Campbell confirms there was in excess of $3 million in electronic equipment in the basement and additional 911 equipment on the first floor.

Commissioners sought a new location for the OES Center and considered purchase of buildings to provide office space.

Brosius says at least three locations that the County rents space includes buildings that are not up to code and are not handicapped accessible.annex-side

Considering their options, the Commissioners decided to build an annex and move the offices located in the old jail and services in three rented buildings, domestic relations, probation, and public defender into the proposed facility.  Commissioners also say by building their own facility, they would not be taking any additional property off the tax rolls.

“Costs of moving the 911 center to another location were anywhere between $2 and $5 million plus property acquisition, and that created a significant issue for us,” says Campbell.

Costs of the original plans for renovations to the Courthouse were estimated at $11 million to $12 million because of the need to rent or acquire property to house existing offices during the transition.  The $8 million will allow construction of the new building and begin moving offices from the courthouse.

Faller says the bottom floor would house land services that include the register and recorder, assessment, planning, GIS, and anything that does land development and that people have to get permitting and do anything with deed recording.

“The second floor would be for 911 and OES, and it would be a secure floor,” says Faller,  “The third floor would be on the same level with the courthouse second floor, and that would be a second courtroom and judicial services.  The annex is basically 70 x 100, and each floor is basically 7,000 square feet.”

Commssioners were not sure what impact the new building would have on the annual Autumn Leaf Festival activities held in front of the courthouse and the existing alley and parking lot used for various carnival stands for the ALF week.


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