A conceptual design phase is under way to get architectural drawings and a cost estimate for the build-out of the vacant fifth floor of the York County Judicial Center.
But York County Commissioners reiterated that they aren't committing to doing the project.
Commissioners on Wednesday voted to authorize county engineer John Klinedinst to begin a rough layout and seek proposals from local architects.
They said the move will only allow Klinedinst to do the work necessary to get a more updated price than the $5 million to $10 million dollars previously estimated to finish the floor, which was left as an empty shell when the building opened about eight years ago.
Klinedinst said the design phase will cost about $25,000, a "very simple" plan for how the 30,000 square foot space will look if laid out to accommodate the needs of the court officials who are requesting the extra space. He can deliver a "close price" to commissioners by mid-January, he said.
York County President Judge Stephen Linebaugh has requested the build-out, saying the caseload is causing unfair delays to case participants and is an inconvenience for courthouse staff and attorneys.
Some trials have jumped from courtroom to courtroom as space becomes available, and others are heard in hearing rooms where people are elbow-to-elbow, he said.
There are still 15 judges, but only 12 courtrooms.
Linebaugh cited a study released before the judicial center was built, saying the 1996 and 1997 projections showed the fifth floor would be needed in 2015; that's the year it would open if design work started in 2013, he said.
The county has actually surpassed the study's projections both in caseload and population, he said.
Linebaugh proposed cost-saving measures that would mitigate most or all of the $335,000 bond payments the county would incur if the project cost $5 million.
Commissioners expressed concern Wednesday about one of the proposals: moving the office of District Judge Ronald Haskell Jr. from a leased space to the fifth floor, saving about $67,000 per year.
Vice-president commissioner Doug Hoke said he was concerned the district judge space would eventually be needed to carry out Common Pleas business, and there would have to be another redesign "in 10 years."
President Commissioner Steve Chronister said he was also concerned, and he's not sure whether Haskell's move should be part of the final plan.
Klinedinst said he'll make sure the design wouldn't exclude future Common Pleas programming of the district judge space, which would be about 4,000 square feet.
Chronister said the build-out is a "when, not if" proposition, and the timetable will be determined by the county budget.
He said he's hoping the estimate is closer to the $5 million estimate than the $10 million max.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at firstname.lastname@example.org.