Some like the courthouse expansion

Residents from other parts of the county praise commissioners, ask for action

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  • Delaware Township supervisor Tom Ryan calls for November ballot referendum so that all of the county is representative. (Photo by Charles Reynolds)

  • Matt Ebert moderates the Concerned Pike Taxpayers Facebook page. (Photo by Charles Reynolds)

"The conversation is going on too long."
Delaware Township Supervisor Tom Ryan

By Charles Reynolds

— Opposition to the courthouse expansion continues — but the other side got a airing this week, as residents from other parts of the Pike County told commissioners they liked the project and urged them to move ahead with it.

Most meetings have been dominated by opponents to the expansion, who say its inelegant design does not suit the historic beauty of Milford Borough. But at this meeting of the county commissioners, residents turned out to praise the commissioners in their plans.

Delaware Township supervisor Tom Ryan said that with 50,000 residents in the county, and only 500 represented by Concerned Pike Taxpayers, which opposes the project, it was “time for the county to be represented.” Lehman Township residents have the longest commute to work in the county, he said, and did not want to “come home to a tax increase,” which will happen if the delays continue.

Ryan asked for an initiative to be placed on the November ballot. The “conversation is going on too long," he said.

Commissioner Rich Caridi said that even if the question were put to voters, it would be a non-binding resolution. If he receives the 350 signatures needed to place the question on a ballot, he will — but he's not in favor of it, he said.

Tammy Gillette, a full time employee who took time off from work to express her viewpoint, said she appreciated the commissioners holding the line on spending. She said there were liability problems, referring to the concern of law enforcement that the current facility does not sufficiently separate perpetrators from the general public.

“If someone winds up hurt,” Gillette said, the county may be liable.

She also said she was upset that it seemed 1 percent of the county's population was dictating to the other 99 percent.

Keith Raser, the Shohola Township supervisor, spoke on his own behalf. He said the Milford of today is not the Milford of the 1950s and 1960s. There was opposition to the County Administration building when it was built, but that, now, it's "fine and fits in with the character of the town.”

“If this building has to be built, it's time to build it," Raser said.

Chris Jones of The Pike County Dispatch spoke in favor of the project, stating that “nothing is centralized” in Milford, and that people walk into the newspaper office to ask where everything is located. He said that those who objected to the project were opposing it in a self-interested way.

Resident Ed Lettieri of Lords Valley said he came down to show his support for the project and for the commissioners

“I got in my car to come down here around 8 a.m. and my battery was dead,” he said by way of apologizing for being late to the meeting. The commissioners said they appreciated his participation.

“Thank you,” said resident Mark Bukaj, in praising the commissioners. “You guys have gone above and beyond what any other county would have done.” He said they now needed to “move it on to the borough and move this thing along."

Cost run-ups loom

Commissioner Caridi pointed out that the county has “already borrowed this money” for the project, and that it was important not to delay further or else it will cost even more than they want it to. Once the consolidation of the court system is completed as recommended by the Administrative Offices of Pennsylvania Courts, he said, there would be more consolidation of offices currently spread throughout the county. When this occurs, the county would then be saving even more money by not having to pay rent on external offices such as those used by Children and Youth Services.

The cost of the project to date is approximately $241,123. Ninety percent of these costs are for engineering — including about $54,000 this year in order to review alternate design ideas brought up by those opposed to the current plans. The remaining costs are for newspaper advertising announcements as required by law, real estate appraisals and attorney fees.

There is also additional costs related to the purchase of the Malahame building (approximately $657,500) and the upgrades to the building for use as arbitration services and temporary court facilities during the construction phase of the expansion project.

Historic Trust says no

Commissioner Matt Osterberg laid out the offer given to the Historic Preservation Trust of Pike County: $40,000 in the budget to help move the Kentworthy building to make way for the annex, so that the "offensive" annex may be put out of sight of the main thoroughfare.

The county was willing to offer two lots next to the Columns Museum for the relocation, in order to keep the building in the historic district. The county was prepared to give the building to the Trust, with a stipulation that if they sold the building to a private person or business, they would pay the county a certain amount. The county would also be willing to sell the building to a business, which would then put it back on the tax rolls.

But the Trust replied with a steadfast “no” to the county's offers.

In the past, Milford Borough has moved buildings from one location to another, such as the Velveteen Habit, which once occupied a spot where now the expanded Forrest Hall sits. A building that was once where the PennStar Bank building is had been moved to a location on Catherine Street. Other buildings, which have had historic designations, have also been torn down.

The main historical significance of the 1874 Kentworthy building is its age, although Dr. William Kentworthy was one quarter owner of a 1915 patent for an automobile-cranker.

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