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Probation Department moving

May 27, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Franklin County Probation Department will be moving this fall into new offices at the Pennsylvania State Police barracks.

The Board of Commissioners approved an agreement Tuesday with Renaissance Associates of Chambersburg to purchase the Walker Road barracks when the police move across Interstate 81 to a county-owned parcel on Franklin Farm Lane.

The sale price is $532,000 based on the average between three appraisals of the 2.2-acre parcel, said County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott. The board approved a $22,000 down payment that will go into an interest-earning escrow account until the sale is finalized.

Probation Department Administrator Rich Mertz said the 23 adult probation officers and eight staff will be moving from about 3,000 square feet of office space on Franklin Farm Lane to about 7,400 square feet at the police barracks.

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"We're just in there like sardines and it's very difficult to deal with a person on a one-on-one basis," Mertz said.

Adult Probation has an active caseload of about 1,200 people and 100 or more may have appointments on any given day, according to Mertz.

He said Juvenile Probation will remain in its Franklin Farm Lane offices.

"It's all but a turnkey" situation, Elliott said. The barracks has built-in security features, such as a secured door between the lobby and office area, and a glass partition in the lobby where clients can pay fines or fees.

He said the building will require little modification and the move could be made this fall, as soon as the new police barracks is completed.

There is also more parking than at the current site and room to expand, Mertz said.

Elliott credited the Probation Department with helping reduce the county prison population and driving down costs through alternative sentencing programs such as electronic monitoring, house arrest and intense supervision.

Elliott said the county will be stepping up those programs. "Probation is more than an integral part of an efficient and cost-effective corrections system," he said.

Along with the 10-year-old building, the county plans to use the state police's communications tower at the site. Mertz said it could be used as a communications link between county offices at the courthouse in Chambersburg and the complex of county-owned buildings on Franklin Farm Lane.

According to Elliott, the cost of the building will be covered by a bond issue the board refinanced last year.

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