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Franklin Co. wants more prison, office space

June 22, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Franklin County department heads have been asked to ponder what their space requirements will be over the next decade.

"What do we need, where do we need it ... and can we afford it?" are some of the questions that need to be answered in the county facilities survey, County Commissioner G. Warren Elliott told about 40 officials on Tuesday.

Director of Planning Phil Tarquino said pending projects prompted the survey. The Probation Department is moving to the former Pennsylvania State Police barracks on Walker Road this year and the county has applied for state funding for an Agricultural and Environmental Services Center on Franklin Farm Lane.

Probation's move will open up more than 3,000 square feet of office space on Franklin Farm Lane. The agriculture center would free up space at the nearby Penn State Extension offices and at the county's Administrative Annex now occupied by other farm-related agencies.

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Elliott said a 20,000-square-foot agricultural building would cost about $2 million. The county hopes to get half of that from the state, with the balance coming from agency reserves, county funds and a fund-raising campaign in the agricultural community.

"This will recognize, once and for all, that agriculture is the number one industry in the county," Elliott said.

There are also plans to create a fourth courtroom at the courthouse, where one judge now holds hearings in a former jury room.

The county owns the courthouse complex on Lincoln Way East, the Administrative Annex on North Second Street and several buildings on 200 acres at Franklin Farm Lane. Those include the prison and its work-release annex, the Falling Spring Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and the Human Services Building.

"If the county continues to grow, you're looking at a fifth judge" in five or 10 years, President Judge John R. Walker said. He said it's not essential for courtrooms to be located at the courthouse and suggested a judicial services building on Franklin Farm Lane.

Walker said more judges mean more district attorneys, public defenders and probation officers.

"I'm running out of space as far as record keeping," said Prothonotary Linda Beard. She said personnel regularly have to retrieve documents from basement storage.

While storage space is running out, some officials said they do not want a records repository located too far from their offices.

Tarquino said computerization of records could reduce the need to have documents stored close by.

Franklin County Prison Warden Raymond Rosenberry said he needs new space in two years, not five or 10. He said his needs are largely determined by the people sent to his care by police and the courts.

Some months, the work-release annex is overcrowded, Rosenberry said after the meeting. Other times it is the main prison that has too many inmates.

"We had an awful lot of triple cells" when the prison population exceeded 300 earlier this year, he said.

"We need to seriously consider a new facility," Rosenberry said. Part of the problem is the wear and tear on the main prison, built in 1972.

The surveys are to be completed by July 2. Elliott said a draft of the facilities plan could be ready late this year.

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