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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Public's alternate annex plan to get look

  • MILFORD- The Pike County Courthouse Annex debate continued Wednesday, July 16, as Commissioner Matthew Osterberg agreed to look into a proposal offered by passionate community members concerned over the impact to Milford's Historic District.
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  • MILFORD-    The Pike County Courthouse Annex debate continued Wednesday, July 16, as Commissioner Matthew Osterberg agreed to look into a proposal offered by passionate community members concerned over the impact to Milford's Historic District.
        With a crowd in the commissioners meeting room taking over an hour raising questions and points, near the end Sean Strube suggested a fresh look at the PennDOT maintenance building on Bennett Avenue. The idea presented was to reestablish the courthouse and court-related functions in that location, where there would be more room to expand without disrupting the middle of the historic district. Bennett Avenue might even be closed off, providing further security enhancement, he reasoned.
        The PennDOT building is located a couple blocks east of the Administration offices, just off Route 6/209 Broad Street.
    ••• Resounding YES
       "Do we want the courthouse out of the center of town?," Osterberg asked, incredulously
        A resounding "YES" was the chorus of response from numerous members of the audience.
        A woman in the audience implored the commissioners to take another step and while talking to the county engineer, involve members of the Pike County Historic Preservation Trust - and anyone who has a vested interest in the borough- to help involve the community in the process.
        While offering to talk to the county engineer about the idea, Osterberg cautioned that the PennDOT site would offer serious environmental issues, with oil and gas tanks. He noted that the 1933 blue stone building, authorized for the state Highway Department by Gov. Gifford Pinchot, is basically a large garage with huge snow plow trucks inside.
       He also cited the concern over redundancy of services.
        He added, "It will come down to dollars and cents."
        The County recently agreed to take ownership of the PennDOT building in exchange for trading a parcel at the County's Blooming Grove office park, where the state would build a new and improved PennDOT facility.
    ••• Can't afford to wait
      The process may take a couple years, which Commissioner Karl Wagner added with time to build a new courthouse added on, this was time he said the County cannot afford to take. He stressed the urgent lax of adequate security the Sheriffs Department faces every day, endangering the public as well while the project drags on.
        Meanwhile, the County is set to formally present their plan for a new annex built on Broad Street, requiring removal of the historic Kenworthey House next door to the old courthouse. The plan will go before the Milford Architectural Review Board (ARB) on Monday, July 28.
    Page 2 of 3 -      Wagner emphasized that the Borough is the "final arbiter" of the decision. He and Osterberg urged the concerned public to take their questions and comments to these meetings.(Chairman Richard Caridi was absent.)
    ••• Could appeal
        Pressed whether the commissioners would "sue" the Borough if the Borough did not rule in favor of the County's plan, Osterberg said he had "misspoke" at the previous commissioners' meeting. He said he did not know whether or not the County would resort to taking it to Court. That is one option; they could also take another look at the plan.
       County Solicitor Thomas Farley clarified that the County would not "sue" the Borough but could take the matter to the Judge and explain that they felt the Borough was incorrect- if the plan was rejected- and ask the Court to render a ruling. Likewise, if the community was not in favor of the Borough's decision, an appeal could be made to the County's Court of Common Pleas.
        Farley said that the two judges in Pike County could consider recusing themselves and refer the appeal to a different judge, specially presiding.
       The County has budgeted between $9 million and $10 million for the new annex and repairing, repainting the old courthouse. The interior of the old courthouse will remain basically the same. Osterberg said that the PA Historic & Museum Commission (PHMC) was very particular about what is done to the interior, during a recent tour.
       A man in the audience suggested that the commissioners work with the Borough on the County's needs as they relate to the Borough's long range plan. The commissioners said that is why they are going before the ARB.
       Although chided for being divisive, Osterberg said that the public "putting words in people's mouths" is being divisive.
       One man said they find it disturbing that the commissioners seem "myopic," focusing on only one location and having their minds made up.
    ••• Legacy
       Amy Eisenberg asked if there have been an impact study on local real estate values with the County's annex plans. Osterberg stated that he did not perceive any affect on real estate values due to the County   government projects.
       Osterberg urged the public to wait to see the new, revised design of the annex, before passing judgment. The revised plan will be presented at the ARB and Council meetings.
         Eisenberg suggested the commissioners were not listening to their constituents. Osterberg reminded that they must answer not just to Milford area residents, but 57,000 people from across Pike County.
       Osterberg said they- the commissioners- are listening, but he is not agreeing with the comments they are receiving. "There's a big difference," he said.
    Page 3 of 3 -     Wagner said they would have to talk to Commissioner Caridi.
        A woman in the audience, reminding that the commissioners are developing their "legacy," will be making a legacy "that you fought for this town."
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