County may enlist inmates’ assistance

Tomassetti presents list that may cost $102,000 to fulfill

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County may turn to the state Department of Corrections to help renovate the larger courtroom in the older portion of the courthouse.

But to complete a long list of refinishing and repair tasks, the county may have to turn to its fund balance for $102,000.

“We have the ability to cover these costs,” Commissioner Terry Tomassetti said Tuesday when presenting the list to fellow commissioners Bruce Erb and Ted Beam Jr. for consideration.

The list indicated that Pennsyl­vania Correctional Industries can assign inmates, for an estimated cost of $37,000, to build a judicial bench and backdrop for the courtroom, in addition to repairing and refinishing pews, antique chairs and a coat rack.

The state inmates are also capable of building a 16-person jury box at a maximum price of $25,000.

And they’re proposing to repair and restore 60 antique chairs, previously used in the courtroom, at a cost of $248 per chair or $14,800.

Tomassetti described the prices from the Pennsyl­vania Correctional Indus­tries as lower than earlier estimates and endorsed the work done that he knows about. The inmates built the judicial bench in Court­room 5 that’s used by Judge Timothy Sullivan, and inmates repaired and refinished pews at St. Mary’s Church in Altoona.

When commissioners set up the 2017 bond issue, they allocated $50,000 toward a judicial bench and some furnishings and $25,000 for construction of a jury box.

Additional items on the list include:

Wainscoting restoration work, $69,900.

Refinishing the courtroom’s wooden doors, $2,600.

A faux finish on two sets of metal exit doors at the rear of the courtroom, $3,200.

Restoration of hardwood floors in the rear portion of the courtroom and replacement of carpeting in the front portion, $26,000.

Beam asked Tomassetti why the county needs to restore its antique chairs. Tomassetti told him that they’re “more compatible” with the rest of the courtroom’s furnishings and the rest of the work being done.

Erb also mentioned that the chairs may be the better alternative considering that they were reportedly bought in 1906 and have lasted more than 100 years.

“The wood in those chairs would last longer than any composite wood,” Erb said.

County Administrator Helen Schmitt offered to look into the option of using Marcellus Shale revenue toward the cost of the courtroom’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning project.

Director of Public Works Rocky Greenland also said that his staff will be available to take on work that will keep the costs of the projects down.

Commissioners said they’ll discuss the proposed work and the use of inmates further when they meet next week. They’re scheduled to adopt a 2019 budget Tuesday. While it has no increase in real estate taxes, it also has a projected end-of-year fund balance of more than $5 million.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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