Centre moves forward with office space study

BELLEFONTE — The county is moving forward with a space feasibility study of its courthouse, courthouse annex and Temple Court buildings.

On Tuesday, the Centre County Board of Commissioners approved a $19,800 study that will be conducted by Weber Murphy Fox, a State College-based architectural and construction management firm. The firm will start the feasibility study around the middle of August and come before the board with final findings and solutions by mid-November, according to county administrator Margaret Gray.

The need for the study arose due to concerns from the county probation office, which according to earlier plans, was going to move from the courthouse to the recently renovated Temple Court building. Gray said concerns about the office’s extensive filing system, the movement of clients and the need for additional room to accommodate new drug court personnel led to President Judge Thomas Kistler requesting a space utilization study.

The study will evaluate the most efficient use and assignment of the space available for all government offices that are currently located in the courthouse, Gray said. The study will document both current and future needs of county offices, in addition to proposed options.

In other business, the board of commissioners approved the proposed funding of local transportation projects.

At the July 25 meeting, county transportation planner Mike Bloom presented the draft of a proposal for funding of local transportation-related projects over the next five years.

An important benefactor of the funding will be the $5 vehicle registration fee that will be implemented on all non-exempt vehicles in the county come Oct. 1. Passed by the board of commissioners in early May, the fee will leverage state and federal funds for local transportation projects, Bloom said. By passing the fee, the county has become eligible for an additional $2 million in bridge funding through PennDOT’s Road Maintenance and Preservation (MaP) program, funding of which the county will have to match dollar for dollar.

The new fee will greatly benefit local projects by helping to close the annual funding gap that exists between the county liquid fuels program and project requests from municipalities, Bloom said. That gap is approximately $735,006, and the estimated annual funding from the $5 fee is $500,000.

A component of the proposed funding is the new 2017-2022 Local Bridge Improvement Program, which will further aid the $200,000 in annual funding the county receives from the Act 13 “At Risk Local Bridge” program. Bloom said the $5 fee will be collected and used toward the program, which will fund repair, sooner rather than later, of municipal bridges that are at risk of becoming structurally deficient.

“There’s been significant interest,” Bloom said. “Not a week has gone by where I haven’t received at least one contact about the projects.”