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Land deal approved for new prison site in Franklin County

March 08, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The price tag for a new Franklin County Prison is approximately $30 million, but the land for the facility is a bargain at about 5 cents an acre.

On Monday, the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority approved a sales agreement for a 19.3-acre parcel to the county for $1. The Board of County Commissioners previously approved the sale, Warden John Wetzel said.

The county and LIDA will split the cost of extending sanitary sewer and electrical service to the site, along with development of an extension of Opportunity Avenue in the Cumberland Valley Business Park, according to LIDA Executive Director John Van Horn.

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"I guess how you look at that depends on whether they're driving you in or driving you out," Wetzel said of the prison's future address on Opportunity Avenue.

Phil Tarquino, a member of the LIDA board and the county's planning director, said the cost of the utilities is approximately $3.5 million.

Van Horn said the site is served by natural gas and water utilities.

The $30 million for the prison construction is coming from a $39 million bond issue the commissioners approved last year. The other $9 million is for farmland preservation and modernizing the county's public service radio network.

Wetzel said construction specifications for the 450-bed prison will be reviewed by the end of March and bids for the project are expected to by received in May. Actual construction is scheduled to begin in June, he said.

"I thought it was a good deal for both parties," Wetzel said of the sale. LIDA board members had advocated the sale as a way of extending utilities to that part of the business park and opening it up to more development.

The business park is comprised of former Letterkenny Army Depot land that was turned over to the county for civilian use after the depot was realigned in the 1990s. The county created LIDA to develop the property.

Wetzel said he is not concerned with LIDA's pending sale of another 55 acres in the park to be used as the site of an ethanol plant. The county's present prison complex is along Interstate 81 and that also poses the threat of hazardous materials incidents that could force an evacuation, he said.

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