Former restaurant set to hold coroner’s office

HOLLIDAYSBURG – The Blair County coroner’s office will be moving from Valley View Home into a former Altoona restaurant.

Commissioners approved a lease Tuesday, for $20,660 annually, for the former Frank’s Restaurant, 1414 Fourth St., from R&L Holdings Limited Liability Corp., a division of Lawruk Realty, 210 W. Plank Road. The building has housed other restaurants in recent years.

Commissioner Ted Beam Jr. said he researched three properties and recommended the former restaurant as the best option, based on easy access to UMPC Altoona and the monthly rent of $1,721.67

“The rent was the least amount of the three [properties] we looked at,” Beam said.

Commissioner Terry Tomassetti and Diane Meling also voted in favor of the five-year lease.

“Our goal was to have the relocation of the coroner’s office completed by the end of July,” Tomassetti said.

The sale of Valley View Home, effective June 1, prompted the need for moving the coroner’s office, which has been on the first floor of the home since January 2012.

The office used to be in the county’s 911 Center, but renovations there forced the office to be moved to Valley View.

In the agreement to sell Valley View to Reliant, the county arranged to lease some space at the home for county and county-related offices through the end of December. But it also agreed to have the coroner’s office moved by the end of July, so that area would be available to Reliant.

Deputy Coroner Cynthia DiAndrea said Tuesday that the move should work out well, especially being so close to the hospital. The former restaurant site also offers refrigeration, which DiAndrea said will be useful for temporary storage of bodies, blood samples, tissue samples or other products.

Beam said he also considered the former Kopp Drug Store across from UPMC Altoona and the former Sheetz store at Lloyd Street and Sixth Avenue, both of which would have been more expensive to rent.

While prior commissioners have advocated purchasing property over leasing, Beam said that may be possible in the future but was not now because of time constraints.

If the county wanted to buy a structure to house the coroner’s office, it would have to go through several steps to meet the requirements outlined in the County Code, Chief Clerk Helen Schmitt said.

Tomassetti also pointed out that leasing, as opposed to purchasing, permits a property to remain taxable.

Meanwhile, the Penn State Extension Office and the Blair County Planning Commission offices remain at Valley View Home. The extension office is expected to move to the Altoona-Blair County Airport in Martinsburg, after renovations to the former restaurant area. The planning commission is expected to move into the basement of the Blair County Courthouse, after the sheriff’s office moves to the first floor.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is 946-7456.