MILFORD- The County does in fact have the right to decide to "demolish or remove" a structure in a Historic District, according to the Commissioners, answering a claim by opponents to the current courthouse annex plan.

  MILFORD- The County does in fact have the right to decide to "demolish or remove" a structure in a Historic District, according to the Commissioners, answering a claim by opponents to the current courthouse annex plan.
    Chairman Richard Caridi had Solicitor Thomas Farley research legal statutes and regulations to determine if the County had that authority, after criticism was made that the Pennsylvania Historic & Museum Commission (PHMC) would have to give approval.
   The subject at hand is the "Judges' Chambers," otherwise known as the Dr. William Kenworthy House at 410 Broad Street. Built circa 1890, the Queen-Anne style former residence features a shingled corner tower capped with a conical roof. It would have to be moved or torn down if the annex is County's annex plan moves forward.
   Farley cited a Commonwealth Court ruling that decided that removal of a historic building from a Historic District would be regulated by the PHMC only if it were owned by a Pennsylvania agency. A county can remove a building owned by the county.
    The claim that the PHMC would regulate the decision was made by a PHMC representative, after being contacted by the local citizen group opposed to the annex plan.
   Farley is sending a letter to the PHMC concerning his findings.

••• Letter sent to the Trust

    Commissioner Karl Wagner said that although the County Code says a county has the power to remove or demolish a structure, he said it is not their intent to tear down the Kenworthy House. The Commissioners have put their offer in writing to save the structure by moving it, sending the letter to the Historic Preservation Trust of Pike County.
    The letter, dated April 14, 2014, is directed to Ed Brannon, President of the Trust and signed by Borough Solicitor Farley.
    "Per your request at Monday's Milford Borough Council meeting, this letter is to outline the County's offer concerning the relocation of the Kenworthy building as follows:
  1. The County will convey, at no expense, the building to the Trust.
  2.  The County will provide $40,000 to the Trust to assist the Trust in relocating the building.
  3. The County will lease, at no expense, two Milford Borough lots located on Broad Street next to the alley adjacent to the Columns to which the building will be moved."
    Farley also states in the letter that the County previously received only one bid, from Grimm Construction,  in the amount of $108,000 to move the building to a new site in the Borough up to 4,000 feet from its present location.
   In addition, Orange & Rockland supplied a quote to the County for removing and replacing utility wires in order to accommodate the move. The letter gives the quote as approximately $28,000.
   "Obviously, the above costs would be significantly less because the relocation of the Kenworthy Building to the aforesaid lots is far less than 4,000 feet," Farley wrote.
    He asked Brannon to discuss this matter with the full board and then arrange a time within the next two weeks for representatives of the Trust to meet with the Commissioners to discuss this proposal.
   After that meeting, the Trust would have 30 days to decide if they wish to take ownership of the building and proceed with the relocation, Farley stated in the letter.
   He added in the letter that the County would like to rent the barn on the rear of these lots for county storage.

••• Step up to the plate

   "They could lease the lot and use it for what they want," Wagner said.
   Bill Kiger, a member of the Trust and key part of the Concerned Pike Taxpayers, the group formed to find an alternative to the County's annex plan, has stated publicly that moving the "iconic" house would "take it out of context."
   "If it means that much to them," Wagner said of the Kenworthy House, "let them step up to the plate."
   Caridi said that they took their plan to the Borough Council out of respect for the municipal leaders. He said the County wants a harmonious relationship with Milford Borough leaders. Commissioners made another informal presentation of the annex plan to Council on April 7. It contained some "architectural softening" that had been requested.
    The County must first make a formal presentation to the Borough Architectural Review Board (ARB) and Planning Commission, before Council receives the plan for consideration.

••• Useless building

    One of the citizens concerned about the County's plan stated at the April 3rd Commissioners' meeting that he had an alternative design that he wished the Commissioners to see. Caridi agreed and asked him to submit it, but two weeks later, the Commissioners have not received yet, Caridi said.
   The citizen had said that his plan would save the County $800,000.
    Osterberg commented that it would be easy to save money by scaling the project down, and give the County a "useless building."
   The Commissioner said it was unfair to criticize the plan by taking certain elements out of context. The County's plan, for example, has 18 rest rooms, but there are also numerous secure hallways. Security is a paramount feature of the annex. Secure hallways needs their own restrooms, or the hallways would not be secure, he added.