Pike County Commissioner Matthew Osterberg defended their courthouse expansion plan, at the Nov. 6th Commissioners' meeting.
A former, long-time Milford Borough Councilman and Council President, Osterberg said he is sensitive to the Borough's needs and concern about preservation, but sometimes sacrifices need to be made. He referred to the Judge's Chambers, a Victorian-era house with a large conical tower next door to the Couthouse, which must be removed for the expansion.
He reminded that the Judge's Chambers will be put out to bid to any interested parties willing to move it to a new location. The County will contribute $40,000 towards the relocation, the same amount they estimate is needed to demolish and remove the structure. The Judge's Chambers, like the Courthouse, face Broad Street.
Also having an interest in local history, Osterberg cited other examples in Milford where structures were relocated rather than have them torn down.
Stating it was important to keep the Courthouse in the borough, which serves as an "economic engine" for the town, the Commissioners also looked at the cost to expand towards the back. That would involve, however, crossing the alley behind the present Courthouse and buying two houses along West High Street now used for private law offices.
Osterberg stated that the cost to knock down those structures- which aren't considered historically significant- and build on these lots would cost the County $1.2 million. Commissioner Chairman Rick Caridi added that this would also remove two properties from the tax rolls.
The new courthouse will serve the County many years and is the plan the Commissioners recommend, Osterberg stated. He noted that Borough residents sacrificed and raised funds to build the first courthouse in Milford in 1814 (what became the stone jail and is now the Sheriff's Office) and the present Courthouse in 1874.
A historic tavern had to be removed to erect the present Administration Building in 1984-85. Osterberg said that he believed the community will embrace the new courthouse once it is done and properly landscaped, as they have exhibited towards the Administration Building.
Osterberg said that the land development plan, which must be approved by the Borough for the project to move ahead, is being prepared. Photographs of other courthouse grounds in the state were used as a guideline.
"We're sensitive to preserve the street scape," Caridi said.
An interim courthouse facility at the former Malhame Vestment Company, at 102 East John St., is expected to be ready for use by January 1st. [EDITOR'S NOTE: This corrects an earlier version of this story which gave an incorrect date for the Malhame building.]
SEE THE SATURDAY EDITION OF THE NEWS EAGLE FOR MORE MEETING TOPICS.
The Pike County Commissioners meet on the first and third Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Administration Building on Broad Street.