- Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 March 2011 00:38
- Published on Wednesday, 09 March 2011 00:38
- Hits: 517
The Westmoreland supervisors met Monday afternoon with consulting architect Rick Funk and the result was a determination to go forward with construction of a new judicial center.
Funk’s previous sets of preliminary drawings failed to satisfy the judges who currently hold court in the George D. English Building.
Judges previously put county government on notice that existing court accommodations pose safety hazards and do
not fulfill the law enforcement community’s modern needs.
On March 1 Circuit Court Judge Harry T. Taliaferro III advised County Administrator Norm Risavi that Funk’s newest set of preliminary drawings could fulfill the requirements of the courts.
“The Judges agree that at this stage there is no point in revising the plans as drawn and the process should move forward without further comment from us,” Taliaferro advised Risavi in the March 1, 2011, document of record.
“We recognize that there are significant design challenges in placing a large building in the limited space adjacent to the George D. English Building,” Taliaferro additionally advised.
“Our prime concern is that the plan ensure public safety and court security. We believe that the present plan properly addresses these issues.”
In addition to its court accommodations, the 43,660 square foot structure will house the Westmoreland Sheriff’s Office and the Commonwealth’s Attorney. The first of the building’s three stories will be shared by the Sheriff’s Office and the General District Court. A second floor will be dedicated to the Circuit Court and will accommodate contemporary storage requirements of the Circuit Court Clerk. The upper level will be home to Juvenile and Family Relations Court and the Westmoreland County Commonwealth’s Attorney.
The building will be engineered to accommodation expansion at some later date, with footings and beams appropriately sized. Expansion would occur along the new building’s western wall.
Research underscored an expectation that construction costs would range from $160 to $200 per square foot and contractor and materials costs may already be on the rise.
On Monday the supervisors voted to instruct the architect and the county administrator to do what is necessary to develop the bid documents. Risavi was authorized to draw as much as $200,000 from a contingency account to subsidize design and engineering costs associated with development of architectural blueprints and the project’s site plan.
The supervisors expect to put the project out for bids no later than July 2011.
Private citizens contributed to this Monday’s discussion. Elected officials and county residents shared concern about incurring an additional long-term debt obligation. The Supervisors agreed to hold a special informational meeting.
Board members agreed the informational session should be held at night, when working citizens are able to attend.
“A meeting with the public could result in cost saving suggestions we haven’t thought of,” Board Chairman Woody Hynson said. Cost projections associated with the judicial center project range from $9,000,000 to $12,000,000.
“I’d be more interested in building a new high school, but the judges have enough pull to order us,” District 5 Supervisor Larry Roberson said.
“We have to go forward or it will be the judges’ ball game and their sticker price!”