Jerry Sandusky Scandal

Sandusky hearing cost town, county $21,700

With the Jerry Sandusky preliminary hearing finished, local officials are now paying the bills.

The costs to Centre County and Bellefonte add up to $21,700, with the biggest expense being wages. That doesn’t include how much the event will set back the county sheriff, police departments in the Centre Region, Spring Township and state police, all of which assisted Tuesday.

Sandusky ended up waiving his right to the hearing, so his court appearance lasted only a few minutes. But county and municipal officials spent days planning to make the logistics, including facilitating an onslaught of media trucks, run smoothly. The small town square became a hub of activity starting Monday night, and by all accounts the planning paid off, with police saying everything went smoothly.

That effort — and the costs involved — could offer a preview of what’s to come if Sandusky ends up going to trial in Bellefonte on charges that he sexually abused 10 boys.

Bellefonte manager Ralph Stewart said the borough’s $4,700 in costs came from about $3,700 in police overtime and about $1,000 in public works overtime. He said officials tried to get as much preparation done during regular business hours as possible to minimize overtime.

“For example, setting up the police command post and setting out road closure barricades, we did as much prep work as we could getting those in place,” Stewart said.

“Had we not been able to reach out to our neighbors, other local governments, to assist us, our numbers would have been astronomical,” he said.

If the case does go to trial — which attorneys on both sides said is where it’s headed — Stewart said those involved will go through the same planning process, preparing well in advance of the court date.

The team used the county Public Safety Training Center as the staging area for media, and the Logan Fire Company in Bellefonte as the police command post.

Penn State provided five button-operated hydraulic gate openers, which block cars when they’re up and can be driven over when down. All told, more than 110 responders were involved in providing security and related services Tuesday morning, according to the county.

County Administrator Denise Elbell said the hearing cost the county about $17,000. Along with providing sheriff deputies, the county assisted with emergency planning, mapping, maintenance and logistics such as providing portable restrooms at a cost of about $900.

It’s difficult to forecast how much Sandusky’s trial could cost the county and the municipalities that provide mutual aid, but Elbell said the price tag could “easily” be in the tens of thousands of dollars.

“If it’s on the same scale, absolutely,” she said.

County Commissioner Steve Dershem raised concerns about the costs that don’t get quantified, including shutting down the courthouse to other business for the day, and closing off sections of downtown Bellefonte to traffic.

“Everyone saw how much of a challenge it was for one day, can you imagine if it goes on for a protracted period?” Dershem said.

He said while Tuesday’s effort was extremely well organized, there will have to be discussions about how that can be maintained for a trial that could last much longer.

“I’m sure the national media folks were very impressed by the fact that it was so organized,” he said, “but can you maintain that level of organization for a protracted trial or every time there is a deposition or discovery?”

Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648.