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Bids open for Centre County courthouse project

BELLEFONTE — Centre County took another step on its path to crucial courthouse renovations on Tuesday.

At the Centre County commissioners’ meeting, bids were opened for Phase II of renovations at the landmark. Bids came in for general trades, plumbing, fire protection and electrical.

“The second phase of this next project involves renovating the second and third floors of the county courthouse. We’ll be developing new restroom facilities, office space and meeting areas for the judges, law clerks, the public and employees at the courthouse,” said the county’s deputy administrator Bob Jacobs. “The other part to this that’s really important is (putting) a fire sprinkler at the entire facility and a fire alarm system. This is really important, because as we all know, Centre County’s courthouse is the oldest operating courthouse in the Commonwealth. It’s very important that we do this work to protect that facility.”

The first two bids that were opened were for the electrical work. Top Ridge, Inc., of Patton, Pa., came in at $248,000. Stelco, Inc., of Altoona, came in at $192,705.

The general trade bids were opened next. Mid-State Construction out of Altoona came in at $660,000, while J.C. Orr and Sons, also out of Altoona, came in at $644,698.

There was just one bid for plumbing and fire protection. It came from Joseph C. Hazel of Bellefonte. That bid came in at $388,238.

All three commissioners agreed that these renovations are imperative.

“I think this is important for a variety of reasons. The face of the courthouse is one thing, but the internal structure and how we do business at the courthouse has changed dramatically. We’ve added new facilities. We have four judges and a whole lot of issues that have developed over the years … more court activity. We now have a DUI court, we have a drug court and the future is unwritten as to what other specialty courts may exist. We have to provide for those services,” said commissioner Steve Dershem.

Now that the bids have been opened, they’ll be reviewed and Jacobs is expected to make a recommendation to the commissioners at next week’s meeting.

Weber Murphy Fox of State College will be overseeing the project.

Dershem did voice concern that there was just one plumbing/fire protection bid.

“We only got one plumbing offer and it’s a big number, almost $400,000,” Dershem said.

Commissioner Michael Pipe said that sprinklers in the courthouse is a definite on the “to do” list when it comes to renovations.

“We can sharpen the pencils, absolutely. But in terms of if anything would happen to the courthouse, the replacement cost would be pricey,” Pipe said. “It may be a bit more than the (other) estimates and since we only got one, we should look at it.”

At the present time, the courthouse has no sprinkler system. Several other Bellefonte historical structures, most notably the Garman Theatre, Hotel Do-De and Bush House have been destroyed by fire in recent years because they did not have sprinkler and fire alarm systems.

The courthouse will also be getting paved parking lots soon. The commissioners approved a contract with Eby Paving and Construction, Inc. for the paving of the High and Penn streets gravel parking lots just outside the courthouse. The contract is for $61,020 with an estimated completion date of Nov. 22.

In other business, the commissioners pushed several items to next week’s consent agenda:

— The purchase of a 2020 Ford F-350 4×4 crew cab truck from Tri-Star Ford of Tyrone, Inc., through the COSTARS program. The truck will replace the EMA hazmat response vehicle. The vehicle will be purchased utilizing PEMA grant funds with a total cost of $45,730. The 2020 Ford will replace a 2005 Ford Excursion which has 217,402 miles.

— The purchase of a Heartsine AED and cabinet for the train station office of the Bellefonte Intervalley Area Chamber of Commerce. The total cost of the purchase is $1,345 and the Centre County Convention and Visitors Bureau will provide reimbursement for half the total cost.

— A lease agreement with Jeff and Trudy Reese for the garage space located at 488 Old Curtin Road in Milesburg. The term of the lease is 10 months, commencing on Nov. 1 through Aug. 31, 2020 with monthly rental payments in the amount of $2,000.

The commissioners will meet again at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

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