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Centre County courthouse ready for another round of renovations

BELLEFONTE — The Centre County courthouse is entering Phase II of renovations.

At Tuesday’s Centre County commissioners’ meeting, the commissioners approved a request to advertise an invitation for bid for the latest round of courthouse renovations. Those renovations include a fourth floor security vestibule, interior renovations on the second, third and fourth floors, a new sprinkler system and fire alarms.

“Last year, there were courthouse renovations done to the first floor, particularly in the court administration area,” said county deputy administrator Bob Jacobs. “Right now, there is a major project going on at the courthouse for energy upgrades. The entire HVAC system is being replaced. This invitation for bid is for what we call Phase II. It’s a larger project and it involves some major work.”

The most critical part of Phase II is getting the courthouse an up-to-date sprinkler system.

“I’m happy to hear we can fit this sprinkler project in,” said commissioner Mark Higgins. “The courthouse is so old that if we were to have any issue inside the courthouse … we might end up losing another building in Bellefonte. (It’s) one of our prettiest buildings. Since it is the oldest continuously running courthouse in the state of Pennsylvania, I think the sprinkler system is money well spent.”

Commissioner Steve Dershem agreed.

“One of the things that I’ve wanted to do is make sure that the courthouse is sprinkled. If we lost that … it’s kind of the keystone and the centerpiece of the entire town of Bellefonte. It’s such a majestic building and it really does lend itself to the character of the town. We’re seeing such a strong revitalization of Bellefonte. The thought of not having the courthouse would be almost unimaginable.”

Other than the sprinkler system, there’s going to be some new security features as well as ADA accessibility.

The Phase II project is vital for the county, said commissioner Michael Pipe.

“It’s another chapter in the life of our courthouse,” Pipe said.

Dershem said that bringing the historic courthouse into the 21st century has been discussed for years.

“There’s been discussions from adding 10,000 square feet of additional space on. I think we’ve done a pretty good job over the years of looking at the need of the court … my hope is that this will resolve a lot of the space issues and a lot of the utilization issues for a number of years,” Dershem said.

The bids are due back on Friday, Oct. 11. Those will be opened on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at the county commissioners’ meeting. The bid will be awarded the following week, Tuesday, Oct. 22.

Jacobs was asked if Phase II will be the final phase of the renovation project.

“I think from the standpoint of major renovations to the courthouse, yes at this point in time. We may look at smaller upgrades to the courthouse, maybe some restroom work,” Jacobs said.

The exact cost for the Phase II renovations has not been determined, Pipe said.

“We will find out the number on (Oct.) 15th,” he said.

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