The York County Commissioners are mulling spending between $8.1 million and $8.9 million to finish the fifth floor of the York County Judicial Center, which was left vacant when the building was constructed.
County engineer John Klinedinst on Wednesday presented the board with the results of a conceptual design phase that started last year.
The three options given were:
** Spending $8.9 million to build and furnish six jury courtrooms and finish the floor to mirror the sixth and seventh floors of the building;
** Spending $8.1 million to build and furnish eight non-jury courtrooms, a large multipurpose room, and a district magistrate court where one of the county's district magistrates could move and a large multipurpose
** Spending $8.2 million to build and furnish 8 non-jury courtrooms, a district magistrate office, and one larger non-jury courtroom instead of the multipurpose room.
York County President Judge Stephen Linebaugh requested the build-out last year, saying the caseload is causing unfair delays to case participants and is an inconvenience for courthouse staff and attorneys.
The $62 million building opened about eight years ago, with the fifth floor intended to accommodate future growth.
"Apparently, the future is here," Klinedinst said Wednesday.
None of the above: Linebaugh also attended the meeting, saying there are six capital murder trials waiting to be scheduled in the county, and there would be serious logistical problems if they were scheduled at the same time because hundreds of jurors would be summoned.
He 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.
Klinedinst said now is an excellent time to build because interest rates are low and construction firms are eager to work. The downside, he said, is convincing the public of the need to spend money.
Commissioners, wary of a financial commitment after having to raise taxes for this year, said they're mulling the project, and it isn't clear when a decision will be reached.
President Commissioner Steve Chronister said he didn't "totally buy that argument," because his experience in construction has shown him that people always say "now" is the best time to build.
He asked Linebaugh what, if there were no fifth-floor to be finished, the courts would actually need over the next five years. Linebaugh said they would "truly" need the eight additional non-jury rooms called for in the presentation.
"I want to build what we need, not what we want," Chronister said after the meeting. "I don't care if it costs more later."
Chronister said would like a "fourth option," but he's not yet sure what that would entail.
He said he hadn't yet spoken with Vice-President Commissioner Doug Hoke and Commissioner Chris Reilly about a "fourth option," but the three must discuss the situation.
Hoke sees pluses: Hoke, who has a financial background, said he does consider now a good time to build because of attractive interest rates and the assumption that construction costs will be higher in the future.
He said these were two of the "pluses" of authorizing the work now. Another "plus" is the possible retirement next year of one of the county officials who helped oversee the original judicial center project, he said.
It is, however, a big decision and a lot of money, he said.
- Reach Christina Kauffman at email@example.com.