Democrats urge commissioners to take courthouse concerns seriously

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  • The Kentworthy building in the midst of controversy over the new Pike County Courthouse expansion project. (Photo by Charles Reynolds)

Editor's note: Pike County Democratic Committee submitted the following as "An Open Letter to the Commissioners of Pike County."

The Pike County Democratic Committee has followed with interest the growing community discussion concerning expansion of Pike County’s Courts system. We are committed to supporting a plan to make sure we have facilities adequate to meet the needs of the Courts system and that provides the necessary security for employees of the court system, participants in court proceedings, and members of the public.

However, we are concerned that the Pike County Commissioners have not been more receptive or responsive to the requests by the Historic Preservation Trust of Pike County, Concerned Pike Taxpayers, and numerous individual citizens to engage in a process that is more inclusive and transparent, seriously considers alternative plans suggested, and doesn’t contribute to increased divisiveness.

Democrats see a successful community as an interdependent, caring and cohesive society brought together by a sense of a common past and a shared future. These principles are especially evident in our county seat, Milford, and, in particular, its National Historic District, one of the true treasures of our region.

The National Historic District serves as Pike County’s “front door,” introducing our county to visitors, prospective new residents, and investors. We are particularly conscious of how a historic district in an attractive county seat helps make Pike County more appealing to potential employers and corporations siting facilities in Pike County.

The Historic Preservation Trust of Pike County has led many important and significant accomplishments that have benefited the entire county. The more than 1,000 donors to the Historic Preservation Trust have helped that organization raise and invest nearly $6 million in infrastructure and public space improvements in Pike County, primarily in the county seat but also in Pike County's surrounding townships.

We believe the Trust’s concerns about the scale, siting and design of the new courts facility should be taken seriously and, as a non-partisan organization comprised of many of our leading community stewards in Pike County, they should be treated with respect and invited to be part of the planning and development process for the new facility.

Furthermore, many of our local small businesses depend on visitors — tourism being the number one economic driver of Pike County’s private sector economy — and when so many of those businesses are in opposition to the plan proposed by the Pike County Commissioners, it gives us pause. These are the businesses creating jobs in Pike County. If these business owners are raising the alarm about the Commissioners' proposed plan, concerned that it may harm their businesses, then that plan needs to be revisited. Business owners, too, should be included in the planning and development process for the new facility.

We implore the Commissioners to take a longer perspective and balance values that some see as competing, but that the Pike County Democratic Committee sees as potentially complementary, if reasonable people sit down with open minds to find a solution that enjoys much broader support from the public.

Specifically, we ask the Pike County Commissioners to take three important steps:

1. Hold public meetings to review the various proposals, relevant issues, and provide those concerned with a forum to share their thoughts. These meetings should be in different parts of the county and at times (i.e., the evening) when more citizens are able to attend;

2. Create a Blue Ribbon Task Force that includes representatives from the Pike County Commission, Milford Borough Council, the Milford business community, the Pike County hospitality industry and the Historic Preservation Trust of Pike County to review the alternatives suggested to develop a better plan; and to

3. Make publicly available the specific assumptions, in terms of population growth, expected court caseload and all other factors, upon which the Commissioners are basing the design of the new facility.

Regardless of the final plan chosen, these are steps that will engage more of the community and bring greater creativity, transparency and accountability to the process and, ultimately, create a better and stronger community. All of us, regardless of political affiliation, should support these ideals.


Pike County Democratic Committee

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