Meadville Tribune

Local News

May 15, 2014

County buying property near courthouse for $131K-plus

MEADVILLE — Crawford County commissioners Thursday unanimously voted to purchase of a downtown Meadville property near the county courthouse for a potential expansion project.

Commissioners approved the purchase of the former Petruso Fuller law office building at 373 E. Center St. for $131,900 for the building and property plus another $8,000 for its contents.

The purchase price was based on the appraised value of the property and under Pennsylvania law, government may pay no more than the appraised value.

The county has been looking at a potential courthouse expansion options for the past several years as a way to alleviate overcrowding at the courthouse.

A proposed two-building plan, unveiled for the first time at the commissioners’ work session earlier this week, calls for a new administrative office building and a projected expansion of the courthouse at an estimated cost of about $21 million.

The proposed plan would demolish the former sheriff’s house and county jail to make room for a two-story addition to the courthouse, potentially increasing capacity for judicial functions in close proximity.

Meanwhile, north of the current courthouse and across East Center Street, a three-story building to house administrative offices would be built adjacent to current parking lots.

The county is considering buying as many as seven downtown properties near the courthouse to create parking for a potential courthouse expansion.

Commissioners are looking at proposed expansion options of the present courthouse in downtown Meadville, instead of going with a now more than two-year-old proposal to split courthouse functions into a separate administrative building downtown and courts-related buildings at the former Talon Inc. site on upper Arch Street. Estimated costs on the courthouse/Talon proposal, first put forth by a county-appointed citizens advisory committee in 2012, rose to $30.5 to $31.2 million by last summer.

The first expansion-in-place option has an estimated $26 million cost for a two-story expansion plus basement on the north side of the present courthouse for a courts wing.

The second expansion-in-place option — a smaller courthouse expansion and separate administrative office — is at an estimated $21 million cost.

The 373 E. Center St. property and its contents initially would house 15 of the county’s adult probation office staff, who currently work in the former Crawford County Sheriff’s residence on East Center Street. However, this past winter the former sheriff’s residence had frozen water pipes, causing damage to that building.

The East Center Street property’s contents were purchased to provide needed offices for the 15 adult probation office staff being moved rather than moving the current furniture from the former sheriff’s residence.

Commissioners said equipment at the East Center Street property is in better condition and additional office furniture would be needed with any courthouse expansion.

Commissioner Chairman Francis Weiderspahn Jr. said he didn’t expect county commissioners to make a final decision on any courthouse expansion until mid- to late summer.

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