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December 10, 2016
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Pike Courthouse addition debate continues

MILFORD, PA — The Pike County Commissioners keep saying the decisions have already been made, but constituents are continuing the argument about demolishing a historic building to site an addition to the county courthouse.

Some 15 to 20 of them filled the tiny commissioners’ meeting room on January 15. Engineer Mike Lamoreaux’s latest recounting of addition building plans provided the prelude for a 90-minute debate that ended without resolution, only because an 11 a.m. sheriff’s tax sale was scheduled in the same room.

As he had at earlier renditions, Lamoreaux noted a cost differential of $1.5 to $2.5 million between the current site and the protestors’ recommendation of the Keystone Office Building, which adjoins the courthouse on the other side, across the alley. Those costs are largely related to the relocation of utilities that use the alley, as well as acquisition cost for the Keystone property and additional modifications that would be required to connect the courthouse to the addition.

Pike Solicitor Thomas Farley said, “Utility costs keep going up. In this economy we’ve got 35 to 40 sheriff sales per month. Lehman Township [once Pike’s growth leader] is a ghost town. No one’s trying to ram-rod this, but how can you ask people to pay $1.5 million for this?”

In response, Karen Kontizas, speaking on behalf of 400 petition signatories, urged the commissioners to “suspend further pursuit” of engineering and architectural efforts on the current plan and “seek an alternative with broad support and fiscal responsibility.”

Kontizas said that given the county’s population decrease, she could not understand the need.

“The criminal population isn’t decreasing,” Commissioners’ Chair Rich Caridi fired back.

The county’s engineers, McGoey, Hauser & Edsall (MHE) took some heat, both direct and indirect.

The county had not sought bids with different ideas for the work, because bids aren’t required for professional work, said Farley.

A former Cornwall, NY resident queried Lamoreaux about MHE involvement in litigation related to the construction manager of a renovation of a Newburgh building for court space.

Lamoreaux responded that the city had hired the construction manager, not MHE.

Commissioner Matt Osterberg noted his history with the Milford Borough Council and repeated defenses of borough’s architectural review board and its decisions. That said, he added, “But no one expected that things would never change. Are we really saying that no home will ever be removed? This is a residential area, not a movie backlot. We have homes back there.”

When he asked about a study, Fauchere Hotel owner Sean Strub was told that space allocation studies had already been done in the existing courthouse. “If a lot of work has been done, why didn’t I get it with my right-to-know request?” Strub asked.

Farley said the study was an MHE “work product,” that the county does not own.

“You paid for it and you don’t have a copy?” Strub responded incredulously.

Strub said he has several unanswered information requests with the county.

Farley said he would look into what has delayed responses.