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Judicial complex financing may exceed reported $290,950

The Journal reported one week ago that Westmoreland County’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA) gave its approval to a loan application whose proceeds would fund a new judicial complex. According to available information, the county hopes to borrow as much as $9,124,000 from Rural Development, a U.S. Department of Agriculture agency that has funded the jurisdiction’s sewer projects. The deadline for submitting the application and ensuring an interest rate of 3.375 percent was March 31.

During the final days of March, County Administrator Norm Risavi and project engineer Rick Funk finalized loan application materials

as well as the project’s bids documents. During 2011 the Board of Supervisors directed Funk to put the 40,732 square foot project out for competitive contractor bids as soon as March 2012.

In the most recent interview with this reporter, Risavi affirmed the intention to complete both sets of documents no later than March 31. He characterized the total amount of the loan application as a high-end estimate and stated emphatically that all contractor bids will be refused if proposals exceed the county’s cost projections. Submission of a loan application and release of the competitive bids solicitation will not necessarily result in initiation of the judicial center construction project, the County Administrator explained.

Immediately after reading last week’s Journal report detailing the loan application the county was preparing to file with Rural Development, Westmoreland County Citizens Association President Kennon Morris contacted The Journal and advised that the amount of interest the county would be expected to pay would surely exceed the reported $290,950 over the life of the loan.

“That’s just the payment for one year!” the businessman explained. Previously aware of project and interest rate particulars, Morris has consistently warned the Board of Supervisors that the judicial center currently proposed for construction will cost as much as $12 million.

According to the project engineer, construction costs would total $8,146,400. An additional $814,640 of the loan proceeds would be held in contingency in the event of labor and/or materials cost over-runs.

The jurisdiction has essentially been ordered by its seated judges to provide a new and secure modern court facility. The complex would house the courts, the sheriff’s office, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office and other members of the law enforcement community. The two-story structure would be sited immediately adjacent to the George D. English Building.

Local government offices would remain in the English Building and space currently utilized by the courts and Commonwealth’s Attorney would be used to accommodate local government requirements. The old county courthouse would no longer be needed to house Circuit Court records and the Circuit Court Clerk. The county hasn’t established how it will use the old Westmoreland courthouse if the new facility is built.

Betsy Ficklin

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