County facilities to get $67M upgrade

Andrea Rose
This rendering shows what the area around Memorial Square in Chambersburg will look like when a new 108,000-square-foot office is built north of Franklin County Courthouse under the $67 million court facility improvement project approved last week by commissioners.

Franklin County commissioners unanimously agreed Thursday to move forward with a plan to improve and expand the courthouse and other county facilities in Chambersburg.

"I believe it's time for us to move forward. The safety/security concerns as well as inefficiencies of the existing facility have been well-documented," said Commissioner David Keller. "I think the solution presented to us is comprehensive and appropriate."

The $67 million court facility improvement project includes a new 108,113-square-foot office structure built along North Main Street; minor renovations to the historic "old courthouse"; renovations to the courthouse annex; renovation and expansion of the administrative annex on North Second Street; and the construction of an archive building on North Second Street.

A study conducted in 2009 justified a significant expansion of court facilities, but the project was put on hold due to poor economic conditions.

"We've been doing Band-Aid approaches for 20 years," said Commissioner Bob Thomas. "There is no denying that Franklin is among the fastest-growing counties in Pa. and this will continue.  It’s also true the demands for judicial-related services have grown dramatically and the cases presented are more serious. This building will be safer and will also provide convenient flow for all citizens, including the physically handicapped. This project is necessary and, when completed, will serve our county well into the future."

Project Manager John Hart said it will take about three years to complete. This year, the county will procure financing and agreements before seeking bids and awarding contracts. Construction will begin after that and will likely take about two years.

"That's going to be a major task we have to work through," Hart said.

Hart said he has already lined up space in the Chambersburg that the county will lease to temporarily relocate workers during construction.

"We know there's gonna be disruptions," he admitted.

"It's going to be a challenging and difficult process, but I think we have the right people in place to bring it to fruition," said Commissioner Robert Ziobrowski.

Hart said he expects parking — both during and after construction — will be one of the bigger challenges. "There are several options," Hart said. "It may not be on this block, but will be within a short walking distance."

Keller said over the course of the next three years, county officials will work to keep disruption to the downtown to a minimum.

"We are gonna work as best we can with the community to minimize any difficulties created by this project," Keller said. "We want to be good neighbors."