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County rejects $655,000 bid for renovations

Breaks down courtroom project into four parts

LOCK HAVEN — The Clinton County Commissioners have decided to consider keeping local history alive by maintaining the original ceiling in the large courtroom at the nearly 175-year-old county courthouse, rather than giving it another coat of fresh paint.

The board on Thursday unanimously rejected bids totalling $655,000 for renovations to the courtroom.

The ceiling is just one part of the project, which was originally bid as a whole and included re-painting the ornate ceiling, painting the walls of the courtroom, and giving the lobby area outside the courtroom a make-over.

Now, with a new board of commissioners taking office, they want to consider another option for the ceiling … one that would allow the courtroom’s historical aura to remain and ensure that paint peeling from the ceiling won’t be a problem again.

The commissioners are going to rebid the project with alternates, asking contractors for four separate bids — one for the entire project, one for the ceiling and walls only, one for the ceiling only and one for the lobby area, explained Gabriel Caprio, who was just promoted to the position of Community Planner at yesterday’s meeting.

“The ceiling is the most pressing part of the project. We’re going to strip the paint off and see what’s under it… take it back to the original ceiling,” Commissioner Miles Kessinger said. “We’re not sure what the original ceiling looks like. It’s a metal ceiling and has been painted many times.There might be five or six layers of paint. The problem is there is no heat up there. It’s warm down below and cool above. The layers of paint just won’t hold,” he continued.

“We’re hoping we can strip it down to the metal and clearcoat it,” Kessinger said.

Caprio said he is hoping for bids to be opened by Jan. 30, and looks toward a summer construction project with a September completion.

Caprio agreed that the original bids from general contractors were way too high, saying they came from two larger firms who have a lot of overhead. He said he expects separating the project in four bids will likely bring in a lower total cost.

As previously mentioned, the commissioners promoted Caprio to Community Planner, filling the position held by Greg Smith, who retired at the end of December. Caprio’s new salary is $39,943.

The commissioners filled Caprio’s previous position as grants administrator in the planning department by hiring Kari Kepler at a salary of $38,111.

Other personnel items at Thursday’s meeting included:

— Granting a salary increase to Katie deSilva, planning director, to $57,328. The commissioners said the increase was based on increased programs, projects and responsibilities under deSilva’s charge.

— Accepting the resignation of Amanda Browning Richardson as Children and Youth Services solicitor.

— Hiring Gina Marie Houser and Kaitlyn Jessica Markle as juvenile probation officers at a salary of $34,568.

— Terminating Darby Hughes, caseworker in Children and Youth Services.

— Transferring Collin McCoy from juvenile to adult probation officer with no change in salary.

— Rescinding the resignation of Ryan Bratton, deputy sheriff.

— Ending the part-time appointment of Denise Bittner as an assessment clerk whose assignment has ended.

The commissioners unanimously approved execution of an agreement with the PA Department of Transportation for acceptance of a 2018 Transportation Alternatives Program grant in the amount of $1,087,000 for the Bald Eagle Valley Trail River Crossing project. Also, the board approved an amendment to the 2018 Community Conservation Partnerships Grant contract to include funding for the Bald Eagle Valley Trail River Crossing Project.

An agreement between Clinton County and STEP Inc. for the final phase of Community Development Block Grant 2018 funds to be used for homeowner occupied home rehabilitation was approved in the amount of $52,530. Commissioner Kessinger was appointed as the environmental review certifying officer for Clinton County’s CDBG program.

The commissioners approved the SAVIN Maintenance and Service agreement with the PA District Attorney’s Institute, effective Jan. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020, at not cost to the county.

Clinton County District Attorney David Strouse explained SAVIN as an automated victim notification program that notifies victims of crime about a person’s custody status, such as an inmate’s release, transfer or escape.

“It’s especially important for victims of violent crimes or sexual assault crimes. Before, the victims never knew when they were released and it was like being revictimized all over again,” Strouse said.

During the hearing of visitors portion of the meeting, four people spoke.

First up was Mike Remick, who encouraged the commissioners to consider restoring the ceiling in the large courtroom without painting it. Commissioner Kessinger said they were in fact planning to remove the paint and see if the metal ceiling can be restored.

Next to speak was Michelle Whitney, who addressed the board about Woodward Township considering adding a new tax — a fire tax.

She suggested the county use some of the Act 13 money it is collecting from the gas wells.

“From 2011 to 2018 Clinton County received $3.5 million. The county is permitted to distribute the monies to several different categories, one of which is Public Safety/Emergency Preparedness. That category encompasses fire departments,” Whitney said.

She then compared Clinton County to Lycoming and Centre counties.

From 2011 to 2017 Centre County distributed $1.17 million to their fire departments and during that same time frame Lycoming County distributed $5.47 million to their fire departments.

“Clinton County receives money from gas wells. From 2011 to 2017, they distributed $0 to their fire departments — nothing,” Whitney said.

She noted numerous organization in Clinton County that the commissioners have approved funding for including Leadership Clinton County, Arts Council, KCSD Summer Program, Downtown Lock Haven, Clinton County Fire Association, SPCA, Historical Society and Ross Library.

“Our fire departments are struggling to make ends meet. They’re looking for creative solutions to fill their financial gaps while our county’s elected officials continue to distance themselves from the issue,” she continued, adding that she was at the Woodward Township meeting on the fire tax issue, “but no commissioners were there to listen to residents.”

Whitney’s husband, Kevin Ferrara, also spoke briefly, noting that the county included $2,500 for the Clinton County Fire Association in the 2020 budget, and that money is used for training. He also talked about the county having capital reserve funds.

“The county has the ability to help … look at the Act 13 money. And there’s got to be some wiggle room in each department,” Ferrara said.

Justin Whitney, a firefighter at Lock Haven Station 2, also spoke.

“It’s rough not getting any funding for fire departments. I joined in 2017 and still haven’t finished training. Any funding would greatly benefit us. We’ve had to open lines of credit from banks and do fundraisers,” he said.

The commissioners also approved paying bills in the amount of $1,113,969.95.

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