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Carbon Co. District Judge may soon have new office

Published June 24. 2011 05:00PM

A Carbon County District Judge is one step closer to having a new office.

During the Carbon County Commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board voted unanimously to designate the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation as the sub-grantee to a $475,000 Economic Development Initiative Special Project grant, which will be used to redevelop a property at 1518 Brenkman Drive, Packer Township. The 6,200-square-foot building will be made into three offices, including a 2,450-square-foot office for District Judge Joseph Homanko. The project is expected to cost a total of $512,000.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, explained the grant was secured in 2009 by former Congressman Paul Kanjorski through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"What this money is for is to take blighted properties and put them back into good use in communities," he said, adding that the remaining money needed for the project will need to be secured by the corporation.

The project also calls for a number of improvements and upgrades to the outside of the building, including 40 parking spaces and a new sewage system for the units.

O'Gurek said that Robert A. Bosak and Associates of Allentown has already been commissioned by the Economic Development Corporation to design the offices.

"This is a great project because it's not only going to help us relocate the magistrate's office, whose lease expires in October," O'Gurek said, "but it's also going to help us grow the corporation, which is another venture that the county is going into. We want the corporation to grow and get bigger and be more responsive to the needs of the community."

The building along Brenkman Drive was last used as a manufacturing facility in the 1980s. The Economic Development Corporation took possession of it in November 2010 because it was the guarantor of the previous company's loan from the state, which was defaulted on.

Since the corporation was the guarantor, when the state decided to foreclose on the property, the corporation had the option to obtain the building, which it did.

In other matters, the county voted to move forward with advertising the bidding period for a lightning protection system for the Carbon County Correctional Facility in Nesquehoning. The county prison, located near the top of the Broad Mountain, has been the victim of numerous lightning strikes over the last few years, causing damage to electrical systems and costing the county and its insurance provider a significant amount of money.

The county prison board, which the commissioners are on, have been discussing the need for a lightning suppression system over the last few months, but have hoped that they wouldn't need to make a decision before legislation is passed to raise the bidding threshold from its current $10,000 mark. Unfortunately, the prison fell victim of yet another, minor lightning strike last month.

The cost of the project is estimated at around $15,000.

The county also voted to enter into an agreement with Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority (LANTA) to continue to operate and manage the county's public transportation services. The term of the agreement will be for five years and will cost $120,000 a year.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein also talked about the strain put on area rescue teams when a person falls at Glen Onoko Falls.

Earlier this week a person was injured while climbing and by the time the rescue was complete, a total of three people sustained injuries.

Nothstein added that the costs associated with the rescue also puts a strain on the fire departments since they are volunteer. He said that he spoke with legislators to see if there was any way to recoup some of the costs of the rescue by charging the person.

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