During a visit to the Happy Valley LaunchBox on Feb. 13, Gov. Tom Wolf said he was unaware of plans to close the Philipsburg state police barracks; but just more than two weeks later, he delivered a different message to state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township.
In a letter signed by Wolf and received by Conklin’s office on March 3, Wolf detailed plans to consolidate the Philipsburg and Rockview barracks into a new 15,000-square-foot facility that the commonwealth will lease for $28,000 per month.
Wolf’s office confirmed on Wednesday to the CDT that the letter to Conklin is indeed from the governor. The governor’s office said Wolf did not know about the state police’s decision to consolidate the two barracks until after he made the comments at the Happy Valley LaunchBox.
The plans to consolidate the barracks, according to the Department of General Services’ Bureau of Real Estate, date back to Jan. 29, 2015, when a Solicitation for Proposal was posted on its website.
The proposal requests 15,000 square feet of space to be leased and used by the state police. The bid area on the SFP requires the facility be located within a 2-mile radius of the I-99 and state Route 150 interchange.
The 2015 SFP was not awarded, and there have been no similar proposals posted on the Department of General Services’ website, according to the department’s data. The DGS did not respond to requests for comment about how and when they awarded the contract.
The new facility will be constructed by Hudson Companies, a development and construction company based in Hermitage, on a 4-acre piece of land in Benner Commerce Park in Bellefonte. The land, owned by Hudson Advisors LP, is located near the I-99 and state Route 150 interchange, across from the Centre County Correctional Facility.
Hudson Companies partner Tyler Hudson said construction will begin in May and the facility is expected to be completed by July 2018. Hudson said the company will lease the facility to the commonwealth, but he declined to confirm the reported monthly lease price of $28,000.
After Hudson was awarded the bid for the new state police facility, the company commenced the approval process within the municipal and county government.
The first known documented contact between Hudson Advisors and the Benner Township Board of Supervisors occurred during an April 4, 2016 meeting, when the board was presented with a memorandum of understanding from Hudson Advisors about the plans to construct the new barracks. The board approved the memorandum.
On May 2, 2016, the Benner Township supervisors approved a conditional use application filed by Hudson to construct a communications tower for the state police facility.
Three days later, PennTerra Engineering completed the design of the land development plans, which were commissioned by Hudson Companies, according to John Sepp, president of PennTerra. The Centre County Planning Commission reviewed and approved the final land development plan.
Following approval by the planning commission, the Centre County Board of Commissioners was presented on May 17, 2016 with a memorandum of understanding for the final land development plan. The board unanimously agreed to move the memorandum to the following week’s consent agenda.
On May 24, 2016, the board unanimously approved the plans, clearing the way for the project to proceed. On the same day, the Centre County recorder of deeds recorded the sale of the 4-acre plot. Hudson Advisors purchased the land from the Centre County Industrial Development Corporation for almost $284,000.
The land development plans drafted by PennTerra then circulated through the municipal and county government to fulfill the requirements of the solicitation for proposal.
Since the board of commissioners approved the final land development plan in May, there has not been an official release from the commonwealth to the public confirming the plan to consolidate the barracks.