Commissioners focus on needed renovations in courthouse
By Randy Bartley
Changes are coming to the 137-year-old Clarion County Courthouse. Many of those changes, however, will not be visible.
"The judge (Sarah Seidle-Patton) wants Domestic Relations on the third floor," Clarion County Commissioner Ted Tharan said last week. "We saw several possibilities. There is an easy way to get the space we need on third floor by rearranging and doing a little bit of work."
Tharan said the two front corner rooms on the third floor are empty right now.
Currently located on the third floor are an auditor's room, a jury deliberation room, a conference room and an office for the senior judge.
"The Judge wants Domestic Relations back in the courthouse because it will save money," said Tharan. "We won't need to have a sheriff's deputy at domestics three days a week. The deputies will already be in the building."
The sheriff's office is located in the basement of the courthouse.
"We looked at the basement and there will be space there once EMA (the Emergency Management Agency) finds a permanent home," said Tharan.
EMA is currently located in the basement of the courthouse. EMA could move into a new 9-1-1 facility but there has been no progress in finding a new building according to Tharan.
Tharan said the county is looking at building two handicapped-accessible rest rooms outside the second floor courtroom.
"They ordered the toilets for them this week," he said. "Then we can look at the basement restroom."
Tharan added, "We have not discussed a fire suppression system for the entire courthouse. I would think we would look at a suppression system in the attic.
"Basically the only place that is wooden in the courthouse is the attic. Everything else is brick and concrete."
Other changes might be coming
Tharan said the commissioners are currently renting space for the Department of Economic Development and two district judges.
Tharan said the county is looking at re-locating the public defender's office from rented space into county-owned space.
"If there is enough space we would move the public defender into the courthouse. It would be difficult to move the district judge's offices," he said.
By law, district judges' offices must be located within the judicial district which they serve.
Tharan said the county is working with an architectural firm in Butler to develop a plan for the allocation of space in the courthouse.
Tharan said the plan would be compartmentalized with a design for the third floor of the courthouse being the first priority.
"This is stuff that should have been done years ago," said Tharan. "They kicked the can down the road for a long time and now it is time to get it done."