MILFORD - At the Monday, May 7 regular meeting of the Milford Borough Council officials first heard about security concerns of new County Sheriff Kerry Welsh concerning the “sally port” area on the back right corner of the historic Pike County Courthouse along West High Street and Gooseberry Alley.
At a special meeting of the council held Monday, May 14 at the borough hall building at 7 p.m., Mike Lamoreaux of the county’s engineering firm, McGoey, Houser and Edsall, had prepared an artist rendering of the look of the courthouse with a front view from Broad Street including the proposed addition. Also present from the county were Tom Farley, the county’s solicitor, Commissioner Matt Osterberg, Commissioner Steve Guccini, Sheriff Kerry Welsh and a complement of his deputies as well as President Judge Gregory Chelak.
The former sheriff, Phil Bueki had given his approval to the design which required maneuvering the prisoner transport van in a difficult swing to enter the door of the sally port. Sheriff Welsh’s evaluation of the design deemed it to be less secure than having an entrance directly from West High Street into the sally port. Sheriff Welsh also had concerns with private property in close proximity to the vehicle on Gooseberry Alley where his deputies would not have jurisdiction over persons on the private property.
Resident Chuck O’Neil presented his drawings and calculations which he felt more than met the spacial requirements to handle the van’s size, handicapped accessibility, and parking while utilizing the Gooseberry Alley entrance; however, Lamoreaux was not in total agreement that O’Neil’s plan was feasible.
Other members of the public spoke questioning the odds of an incident happening as well as the aesthetics of the new plan as it relates to the Historic Preservation Trust and the Historic Architectural Review Board. Council Vice President Megean Kameen had concerns about the public’s safety while walking on the sidewalk in front of the proposed garage door on West High Street.
Judge Chelak gave his support to the plan presented by Sheriff Welsh as well as the plan when first presented by former Sheriff Bueki.
The Judge also stated that it was not his position to tell the sheriff how to run his office. “I wholeheartedly support Sheriff Welsh’s position on the revised addition. Judge Chelak believes that Welsh’s plan is more secure than the previously approved plan. When questioned by Bill Kiger about the ramifications of the new design as it affects the architecture of the historic building and more specifically, the impact on the future application of the historic district ordinance, the judge abstained from offering any comments due to possible conflicts which could come to the bench in the future.
Workshop meeting and vote
At the regular third Tuesday workshop meeting held on May 15, the same county officials from the night before were present. Some written comments from interested residents were read and an updated sketch from Chuck O’Neil was presented. Many of the same arguments were presented and the majority of comments from the public were not in favor of adopting the revised plans.
Mayor Sean Strub opined that due to the importance of the decision and the amount of time that the officials have had to consider it, that they should slow down and get some outside consulting. Strub offered other alternatives to the courthouse addition such as using Gooseberry Alley itself as the Sally Port with a structure that could have been built across the alley with doors on either side that could be closed when in use by the Sheriff’s Department and then opened for the remainder of the time, or possibly vacating the alley.
Commissioner Osterberg was quick to debunk the alley idea stating that the streets and alleys of the borough are “the fabric of the borough and that once you give up an alley, you never get it back.”
At the end of discussion, Councilman Aaron May made the motion to give the county the required 6 foot by 45 foot piece of borough property so that the sally port with enhanced security may proceed.
The motion was seconded by Councilman Luke Turano with some conditions including the borough getting some parking spaces and landscaping as discussed with the county’s solicitor as well as a stipulation that the proposed addition meets the approval of planning, zoning and architectural review board hearings.
The motion carried 4-3 with President Frank Tarquinio, Annette Haar, Aaron May and Luke Turano voting in favor and Adriene Wendell, Rob Ciervo, and Megean Kameen voting against.
The revised plan will now head to borough planning, zoning and architectural review board for their determinations for zoning variances and ARB appropriateness, all public venues where residents may attend and offer comment.