York County judges oppose moving Springetts district judge office to prison
Two York County judges and Sheriff Richard Keuerleber oppose the county's proposal to move the Springettsbury Township district court office into vacant space at the county jail, county officials said Wednesday.
At a York County Prison Board meeting Oct. 9, York County Commissioner Susan Byrnes said President Judge Joseph C. Adams and District Judge Barry Bloss Jr. told her in recent conversations that they object to the idea of having the district court attached to the prison building.
"If this is a recommendation that goes to the board of commissioners, it’s going to be controversial," Byrnes said.
It would be Bloss' office that would move under the proposal.
Neither Bloss nor Adams were present Wednesday, but Common Pleas Judge Craig T. Trebilcock, a member of the prison board, relayed the president judge's concerns, too.
The physical connection of the proposed office building to the prison building would make it difficult "to overcome the perception that you come in the door and you may never be coming out," Trebilcock said, "and that would be a problem for the public."
Calls to Adams' office Wednesday were not returned.
Adams is also hesitant about the estimated $2.1 million cost to retrofit the prison space to meet the needs of the district court office, Byrnes said.
Keuerleber shares the concerns expressed by Adams and Bloss, said Chief Deputy Richard E. Rice.
The opposition from three county officials puts the plan in jeopardy.
"If there’s a possibility that things aren’t going to move forward," county Commissioner Doug Hoke said, "It’s not right to spend more taxpayers’ money continuing the studies until we reach a decision or a compromise on what’s going to happen."
Recently, the county prison board has discussed changing the name of the prison to better reflect recent changes at the property. The York County Coroner's Office, for example, is moving into another vacant area of the prison, and that plan includes a new county morgue.
The proposed district judge office would be 7,050 square feet, putting the estimated construction costs at $294 per square foot, and the cost estimate includes a 25% contingency, said John Klinedinst, the engineer who prepared the feasibility report on the project.
The prison board first mentioned the proposal in May.
Moving the district judge office to the prison would be a win-win for the county and for taxpayers, Byrnes said, and she said she's disappointed that Judges Adams and Bloss don't support the plan.
First deputy district attorney Seth Bortner said he doesn't have an issue with the office being physically connected to the prison because it wouldn't change the rules or procedures of the court.
"I don’t think just because they’re here in the building, they’re going to start sending more people over," Bortner said.
Bloss' office is presently at the Pleasant Acres annex building in Springettsbury Township, along with several other county offices.
The county commissioners voted to sell the annex, along with the nursing home, in 2018 to Premier Healthcare Management.
The county, which bought a new building on Pleasant Valley Road to replace the annex, has until the end of 2020 to move its offices out, but moving the district judge office to the new building would be too expensive because the sewer line would have to be extended, said county spokesman Mark Walters.