An asbestos survey of the Crawford County courthouse is proposed before a potential building renovation that may shift some county offices back into the courthouse later this year and into early 2020.

County commissioners are scheduled to act Wednesday on a $3,640 contract to Microbac Labs for an asbestos survey of the courthouse.

If approved, it would be a prelude a potential shift of some offsite county offices back into or closer to the courthouse, according to Francis Weiderspahn Jr., chairman of commissioners.

In August, commissioners hired Perfido Weiskopf Wagstaff and Goettel, a Pittsburgh architectural firm, to assess courthouse space and develop a concept plan for possible renovations at a total cost of $44,900. In addition to moving some offsite county offices into the building, the study is looking at updates to the courthouse's heating, ventilation, electrical and other systems.

About a third of the courthouse in downtown Meadville has been empty since the summer of 2017 — the second floor, much of the third floor and portions of the first floor. In 2017, Crawford County Court of Common Pleas and many court-related offices moved into the new judicial center adjacent to the courthouse.

About half of the basement level of the courthouse has been vacant since 2017. The county's 911 Center, which had been in the basement of the courthouse, moved to the county's new public safety building on upper Pine Street in Meadville while the Crawford County Public Defender's Office moved from the basement to larger, rented quarters at the former Masonic building at 312 Chestnut St.

The county's lease for the Public Defender's Office is due to expire this spring with the idea of moving that office back into county-owned facilities, according to Weiderspahn.

It would falling domino effect on some other offices as well.

According to Weiderspahn, staff at the county-owned Adult Probation Annex office on East Center Street would move back into courthouse into temporary quarters on the first floor. That would allow the Public Defender's Office to relocate into the East Center Street office building, he said. The lease of the Public Defender's Office may have to be extended on a short-term month-to-month basis to allow for the change, he said.

The second floor of the courthouse then would be renovated to accommodate all of the county's Adult Probation and Juvenile Probation offices. Adult Probation currently is split between the East Center Street building and the courthouse basement while Juvenile Probation is housed in a county-owned building at 286 Chestnut St.

One of the former courtrooms on the second floor of the courthouse could house the offices of Magisterial District Judge Samuel Pendolino, whose district covers Meadville and West Mead Township. The county currently rents space for Pendolino's offices at the Meadville City Building, 894 Diamond Park. The lease for the magisterial court offices ends in December, Weiderspahn said.

"We'd eliminate rent for the Public Defender's Office and Pendolino's office," Weiderspahn said. "We'd also eliminate the cost for security guards at those offices since they'd be back in the courthouse and we have security here."

The county-owned Juvenile Probation Office on Chestnut Street then could be used for county record storage or potential sold, he said.

The cost of the potential renovations at the courthouse for all the potential moves isn't known at this point.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

React to this story:

1
0
0
0
1