February 12, 2014 —
MILFORD, PA — A group of Milford area residents and businesses is continuing its effort to press the Pike County Commissioners to reconsider plans for the planned expansion of the county’s 141-year-old courthouse.
The expansion would involve demolition of the Kenworthy Building, which is listed in Milford’s National Historic District.
Noting that the January 15 commissioners’ meeting was cut short before all could speak, the group, Concerned Pike, representing some 400 to 500 persons opposing the project, issued a January 26 press release.
An extended January discussion was pre-empted as bidders filled the administration building lobby for a previously advertised sheriff’s sale, to be held in the commissioners’ meeting room.
The new statement reiterated Concerned Pike’s request for “the Commissioners to suspend further spending on the engineering, architectural and other expenses related to the Courthouse expansion until there are opportunities for further input, including a public hearing, and more in-depth consideration of alternatives.”
Their release was accompanied by a supporting letter from Erin Hammerstedt of Preservation PA. Hammerstedt, writing to the commissioners, in part warned, “If you begin compromising the character of that community by demolishing several historic buildings and constructing a large, modern building in their place, you will begin to erode the fabric that makes Milford special, and that people have worked so hard for decades, if not centuries, to create and preserve. It would be short sighted of you not to consider the long-term impacts of your plan before making your decision.”
Commissioner Matt Osterberg has been the commissioners’ principal advocate for the project. Osterberg said Tuesday that the county is still acquiring and considering new documentation on the expansion project.
Noting that Hammerstedt’s letter spoke of three historic buildings to be demolished, he said he has spoken to her explaining that two buildings on High Street were acquired by the county and their demolition for new parking was approved by the borough more than 20 years ago.
The Kenworthy Building on Broad Street now houses the county judges’ offices. Osterberg reiterated that the commissioners have offered to provide the estimated cost of its demolition toward the costs of any potential buyer who would relocate the building to a new site.
The historic district includes about 75% of the square-mile borough. In addition, Milford has a local historic district that includes all of the commercial properties on Broad and Harford streets. The Kenworthy Building is also within this district.
Osterberg said the county has also received opinions that the costs of relocating utilities—required with any closing of Gooseberry Alley for an alternate expansion at the adjoining Keystone building—should be borne by the utilities. “We can’t accept those opinions without having written commitments,” Osterberg said.