The Centre County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday expressed frustration and concern over the potential plan to consolidate the Philipsburg and Rockview state police barracks.
The plans to consolidate the two barracks into a new facility, which will be built in Benner Commerce Park in Benner Township, date back to 2015 when the state Department of General Services posted a solicitation for proposal on the department’s website. The SFP requested a 15,000-square-foot building to be located within two miles of the Interstate 99 and state Route 150 interchange.
In May 2016, the board approved a final land development plan for the new state police facility, but the documents sent to the Centre County planning office did not mention which barracks will be consolidated, according to board Chairman Michael Pipe.
“We went back and checked to see if the words ‘Philipsburg’ or ‘Rush Township’ appeared in any of the planning documents prior to approval, and they did not come up at all,” Pipe said.
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On May 24, 2016, the same day the board approved the final land development plan, the Centre County recorder of deeds recorded the sale of a 4-acre piece of land to Hudson Advisors, a subsidiary of Hudson Companies, of Hermitage.
A week ago, Hudson Companies partner Tyler Hudson confirmed that the company will be starting construction in May on the new state police barracks.
The confirmation comes after Gov. Tom Wolf sent a letter to state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, on March 3, which detailed plans to consolidate the Philipsburg and Rockview barracks into the new facility. Last week, the state police declined to confirm to the CDT that the plans the governor released to Conklin are accurate.
The conflicting messages from the Wolf’s office and the state police have residents of the region concerned, said Commissioner Steve Dershem.
“You just can’t close a barracks without describing what’s next,” Dershem said. “We have to know what the process is for coverage in that area. I’m concerned that this might be a little bit premature, and it’s going to leave the Philipsburg area with no police coverage.”
A public meeting, which will be attended by representatives from Wolf’s office and the state police, will be held on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Philipsburg middle school, 200 Short St. Centre County planning office director, Bob Jacobs, will also attend the hearing organized by Philipsburg resident Nancy Snyder.
Snyder’s efforts highlight the level of community engagement of people in the region, Pipe said.
The meeting is expected to offer residents more information about the potential consolidation. But Pipe said he also hopes state officials will shed light on the decision-making process.
“You’re seeing the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, and you have the PSP saying one thing and the governor’s office saying another thing,” Pipe said. “It doesn’t seem like the two of them are going to be on the same page with this, and that’s a concern.”