BELLEFONTE — Dealing with the prospect of overcrowding in the Centre County Courthouse, the commissioners sought additional space and found it just a short walk up Bellefontes South Allegheny Street.
Last month, the county board agreed to pay $455,000 to purchase the Temple Court Building, which sits beside the Courthouse Annex.
On Tuesday, they laid out preliminary plans for Temple Court, which could help alleviate growing pains as the county transitions from a fifth-class county to fourth class.
Centre Countys growing population has pushed it to the new classification.
The change means the Office of Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts will be split from one position into two, with one
office handling civil cases and the other dealing with criminal matters.
That split will require new office space, something the courthouse doesnt have, according to county Administrator Tim Boyde.
We have some growth needs in the courthouse, Boyde said. Were going to have to move someone out.
The Temple Court Building, sitting between the Courthouse Annex and East Cherry Lane, gives the county some space to grow.
We have three floors to work with, and 10,000 to 15,000 additional square feet of space, Boyde said.
While the property wont address parking issues in Bellefonte, Boyde said the buildings proximity to the courthouse was ideal.
Bellefonte Borough Manager Ralph Stewart praised the commissioners for investing in downtown property.
Strategically, it makes sense because they have property and services adjoining the Temple Court Building, Stewart said. Bringing offices back downtown like it was years ago will increase commerce, which is struggling during difficult economic times.
Commissioner Chris Exarchos said he envisions having court offices in the buildings top floors, and keeping the retail in the first floors just to help the downtown.
The four-story buildings current tenants include the Bellefonte Youth Center and an Edward Jones financial services office.
Boyde said county officials will look into connecting the upper floors of the building with the adjacent Courthouse Annex.
Exarchos said the county plans to hire an architect and an engineer to work on the project.
While the split in the Prothonotarys Office will not take place until the 2015 election, Exarchos said some changes could come before that.
Wed like to do it sooner, because I know the courts could use the additional space right now, he said.
Boyde said the county has had preliminary talks with President Judge Thomas King Kistler regarding what services should be moved.
Boyde said the county may require another judge and courtroom after the change in classification.
Centre Countys population grew 13.4 percent from 135,762 to 153,990 between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. census.
In Pennsylvania, counties with between 145,000 and 209,999 residents are considered fourth-class counties.
Boyde said the buildings former owner, Ronald Wiser, of State College, approached the county about the sale. At the time, the county was looking for a new home for its Office of Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities, which relocated to the former Corning plant near the Nittany Mall.
He said finding additional courthouse space in downtown Bellefonte presented a challenge.
Were got to keep up with the decorum of a Victorian, charming town, he said.
Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter