Milford Borough does not readily accept changes to its appearance that involve the demolition of any buildings in its historic district. The Rite-Aid Corp. went through several designs and hearings on the demolition of an adjoining office building before its West Harford Street expansion won approval.
Similarly, the Pike County Public Library was the subject to years of design debate before the new building rose on East Harford Street, and that didn’t even involve any demolition.
So when the county commissioners in September announced a design plan for a new courthouse annex, involving the demolition of the adjoining Broad Street building currently housing court offices, criticism was almost certain to follow.
Recent word in the media of opposition to the demolition and a petition calling for a public hearing on the plans and possible relocation drew a commissioners’ response at the November 6 meeting.
Noting the media attention, Commissioner Matt Osterberg, who formerly served as Milford Borough Council president, said, “Sometimes we need to make changes. It is important that the court stay in the borough… Residents always knew it was important… In 1814, they raised $1,500 to build a courthouse.”
Osterberg said the opponents’ suggestion of moving the annex to the West High Street side of the courthouse, with the loss of two office buildings there, would cost $1.2 million for purchase and utility relocations and cut the square-mile borough’s limited tax base. “It’s not economically viable… Our building recommendation is cost conscious” he said.
He characterized Milford as “a big puzzle,” in which the county has for years been buying old buildings for office space and “putting band-aids on problems.”
A published author on local history, Osterberg produced a photo of the tavern that once stood where the county administration building is today. “Today, we would be hearing ‘don’t knock it down.’”
Questioned about the requested public forum, Osterberg said, “This is the public forum… We’re doing this.”
The commissioners noted that they have also offered the likely cost of the demolition of the existing court office building as a grant to anyone who would purchase and relocate it in the borough.
Separately, the commissioners announced that the interim court annex at the corner of Broad and West George streets would be ready for occupancy in December and that the Mediation Center would be the first tenant.
On another matter, Osterberg pitched a November 13 “Economic Summit” hosted by the Pike County Economic Development Authority (EDA). A summit announcement quoted EDA directors chair Kathy Hummel describing the gathering as “the perfect opportunity to share... what we see as a spike in economic activity in the county. New business and new jobs are coming to Pike.” Earlier at the same commissioners’ meeting, Osterberg was named as the county’s representative to the Northeastern PA Technical Planning Organization.
The commissioners also announced that Pike’s 2014 budget will be available for public review on December 4, and that the budget will contain no spending increase.