The Blair County Board of Commissioners decided on Tuesday to move forward with a proposal to create a satellite parole and probation office in the building once occupied by the late Magisterial District Judge Joseph Moran.
The commissioners authorized Baechle and Associates Architects in Hollidaysburg to take a look at the building at 705 Eighth Ave. and determine what it may cost to remodel and expand the structure for use as a downtown Altoona parole and probation office.
Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva said the center, if opened, will be staffed with a supervisor and male and female probation officers.
Kopriva and Thomas Shea, director of the county parole and probation department, in October outlined the plan for a "day reporting center" in Altoona.
Judge Kopriva said Tuesday that initially the idea was to put a little paint on the building, which the county owns, and move parole and probation officials into it.
She said when the architect did a walk-through of the structure, however, it became evident that remodeling and expansion were necessary. Kopriva said the office would have to be about 4,500 square feet.
She said the recently constructed, 5,000-square-foot office of Magistrate District Judge Steve Jackson cost $800,000, so she expected the day reporting center to cost less than that.
Lisa Ozio, a supervisor in the county parole and probation department, said that many of the department's clients live in Altoona. She said many of them have transportation issues when it comes to traveling to Hollidaysburg for urine testing or meetings with the officers in charge of their cases.
Ozio said the department wants to hold GED classes and classes on "cognitive behavioral thinking," which helps probationers and parolees explore why they committed the acts that led to trouble with the law.
The veteran probation officer said Blair County officials visited a day-reporting center in Franklin County to determine how it works.
"I think it will be great," she said, noting that the center may eventually be staffed for a second shift.
Capital improvements to the center will be financed through the parole and probation department's supervisory fund. The fund comes from money paid by defendants who are under the county's supervision.
Terry Tomassetti, commissioners chairman, said the money for the improvements will not come from the county general fund.
Kopriva said that she and Shea have been working with the commissioners on the idea of a satellite office, which would help to reduce the traffic in the courthouse and enable closer supervision of clients in Altoona.
The judge addressed the reflections-on-life classes that would be held in the building, noting they are important to help clients change their lives and also protect the community.
The only negative aspect so far has come from the county costs and fines department, which had concerns that clients may neglect payments to the office if they did not have to come to the courthouse periodically.
Magisterial District Judge Moran died in late 2009. After his death the county decided to eliminate his judicial district and divide the cases from that district between Magisterial District Judges Todd Kelly and Charles Auker.