Centre officials hear findings of space utilization study

BELLEFONTE — Weber Murphy Fox has come up with several solutions to enhance county government office space.

During the Tuesday, Nov. 7 meeting of the Centre County Board of Commissioners, staff from the architectural firm presented findings and solutions from a $19,000 space utilization study. The commissioners will be reviewing the proposed plans over the next couple of weeks, and the project will be a priority in the county’s 2018 budget.

“We’ve already had the District Attorney’s Office moved over to the Temple Court building, and we want to be very cognizant and thoughtful about the next moves that occur within the courthouse, annex and Temple Court building,” said Commissioner Mike Pipe.

According to county administrator Margaret Gray, the study’s intent was to evaluate the most efficient use of the space available for government offices currently located in the county courthouse. The need for the study arose due to concerns from the county probation office, which was originally going to move from the courthouse to the Temple Court building. 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 the space utilization study, which began in mid-August.

Anna Childe, manager of Weber Murphy Fox’s State College office, said a series of meetings were held with representatives from each of the affected county offices, to determine the best possible current and future use of the courthouse, courthouse annex, and Temple Court building. Two big proposed moves from the courthouse to Temple Court are the public defender’s office, currently located on the courthouse’s first floor, and part of the probation and parole department.

Within the courthouse building, a primary change to the first floor would be the relocation of court administration, currently located on the second floor. Childe said this will allow for more space for the office and make it more convenient for visiting judges and the public.

Changes to the second floor include using the space vacated by court administration for bathrooms, relocation of law clerks and the law library, and the creation of additional meeting space for attorneys and clients. Childe further explained that the new law library, which is currently on the third floor, will be downsized because it does not need to be as large as it is. This is especially due to the advent of digital storage, which she said means less physical volumes are being kept, and if additional space would be needed in the future, the Temple Court building would be accommodating.

On the courthouse’s third floor, a new courtroom is proposed to go in the space where the law library currently is. On the fourth and uppermost floor, part of the probation and parole department, which Childe said is currently very overcrowded, will take over the space vacated by the district attorney, and an additional security vestibule would be placed on the floor by the entrance near the ADA-accessible parking space.

“By basically doubling the probation and parole office, it allows some of the specialized probation that’s currently on the third floor to move up to the fourth floor and let them work a little bit more contiguously,” she said.

In the annex and Temple Court building’s third and fourth floors, no changes will be made as that is where the District Attorney’s Office now resides, Childe said.

On the first floor of the Temple Court building, Weber Murphy Fox is proposing the addition of a second door for additional entry for specialized probation services. The floor will also include meeting rooms that can be scheduled to be used for court-related functions and the move of the jury commissioners from the court administration office, which will allow them to have them own space.

The second floor of Temple Court, which is an office suite with an open clerical space, waiting room, and independent offices, will be where the public defender’s office will relocate, Childe said. The space was chosen as a good fit since the public defender’s core functions involve the attorneys and county clerks. The judge’s chambers will remain on the second floor of the courthouse annex.