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Monroe courthouse expansion plans detailed

The Monroe County Commissioners continue to move forward on the courthouse expansion plans.

The roughly $58 million project will include a three-story addition housing an attractive entry lobby, service and secure vehicle access, and new courtrooms, chambers and support areas.

The addition will be located on the east end of the block bounded by 6th, Monroe, and Sarah Streets.

The 1970s Courthouse Annex will be renovated to provide additional courtrooms and more efficient use

of space for court related agencies. The existing sunken plaza will be redeveloped to create a new, more easily accessible and usable public plaza.

The need

The courthouse was built in 1890. Then 44 years later in 1934 an identically sized addition was built. Both structures were added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 18, 1979, the same year an expansion was added to the two standing structures.

Now, after nearly 42 years after the last expansion, every available space in the courthouse is being used. Monroe County has grown and with that comes the increase of judicial business and offices.

The original historic courthouse, with its 1893 courtroom and 1930s courtroom, will also have upgrades. Concrete sidewalks and retaining walls on the east side will be removed and replaced with lawn, restoring the courthouse’s setting on Monroe Street to its original condition.

The current historic courthouse and annex do not meet modern courthouse space standards.

Various options were developed and evaluated leading to the current plan to develop a new 66,000-square-foot, three-story structure with new courtrooms and judicial chambers. The lower level would be devoted to secure parking for judges, detainee holding and vehicle access, and sheriff court security operations.

The new courthouse would also include an accessible public entrance and lobby off a redeveloped plaza area with security screening space.

The historic courthouse and annex will be renovated for clerical and similar judicial offices for use by court administration, probation, custody conciliation, sheriff, prothonotary, clerk of courts, domestic relations, district attorney and public defender.

The addition

The new courthouse addition will be lower in height than the historic courthouse. The principal roof height (measured to the top of the parapet) of the new addition will be approximately 53 feet above grade which is significantly lower than the approximately 62-foot height of the main roof of the historic courthouse.

The stair/clock tower of the new addition will extend to 65 feet, also significantly lower than the approximately 92-foot high bell tower of the Historic Courthouse.

In recent weeks:

• Commissioners ratified an agreement with Midlantic Engineering for $14,500 to perform additional geotechnical engineering services for the Courthouse Expansion Project.

• Ratified authorization for the county treasurer to open the following bank accounts: Courthouse Expansion Project/Capital Projects - First Keystone Community Bank.

• Work on the former Ramsey School to accommodate courthouse employees during the construction on the courthouse, will resume as soon as the Stroudsburg School Board gives it approval.

Ramsey Elementary

The county is leasing Ramsey Elementary School, in order to move the courthouse offices to Ramsey during the courthouse expansion and renovations.

Although the decision would mean spending thousands of dollars on a building owned by the Stroudsburg School District, Monroe County Commissioner John Christy said they would not be wasting money, because in the long run the county would save money.

“The construction will go much smoother and faster, if the construction workers don’t have to work around courthouse employees trying to do their work,” he said.

The first renovation goal is to make the first floor ADA compliant, so when the courthouse offices are moved to Ramsey, people conducting business with the different offices can meet on the first floor.

Work to be done on the school includes the building exterior, air conditioning, a complete new plumbing system, a heating system and some type of communication system to the courthouse. Items could be added to the list.

A drawing shows the proposed Monroe County Courthouse project, with the expansion. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO