WELLSBURG - Two vacant houses next to the Brooke County Courthouse are slated to be razed on Nov. 1 in the first step in the Brooke County Commission's long-term goal of expanding the county courthouse.
Mike Pusateri Excavating of East Liverpool has been hired to demolish the Charnock house, acquired by the commission many years ago, and the Pertko house, whose owner recently moved.
The commission finalized purchase of the Pertko house in recent months, having initiated it also some time ago.
Crews are expected to set up equipment on Oct. 31 and, following the demolitions on Nov. 1, return on Nov. 4 to clean up the site.
The commission has been awarded a $25,000 Governor's Community Participation grant for the $26,455 project through the efforts of Del. Phil Diserio, D-Brooke, and Dels. Randy Swartzmiller and Ronnie Jones, both D-Hancock.
A portion of Brooke County was added to the latter two legislators' district with redistricting done by the state Legislature in 2011.
Commission President Tim Ennis said the two houses must be removed because they are in poor condition.
But he acknowledged their removal also will make room for the proposed expansion of the courthouse, a long-term goal of the commission.
"This is Phase 1 - removing the houses and preparing the property," Ennis said, noting the commission must secure funds to build onto the courthouse.
He said the addition would be atop a parking garage so it would be out of the floodplain.
The garage also would address complaints about a lack of nearby parking when trials are held at the courthouse.
The expansion would allow the commission to return the county's magistrate and family courts to the courthouse. The two courts were moved to the third floor of the Progressive Bank building on Charles Street following the 2004 flood.
In recent years the commission learned that area of the building, which is separate from the bank's first floor lobby and offices, doesn't comply with the state fire code.
Citing inadequate space for both courts at the Progressive Bank building, the commission has made plans to move the family court into the training and conference room on the first floor. The room once was occupied by the magistrate court.
Ennis said the state Supreme Court, which establishes criteria for the court facilities, has approved the room with the understanding the family court move on a temporary basis, in light of the commission's expansion plans.
He said upgrades to the room must be made before the state court officials will approve the move. They include installing wiring to allow Internet access and installing a bench for the family court judge, moves he said will be funded by the state Supreme Court.
"We have little to no cost in it," Ennis said.
In other business, the commission:
Amended the county's dilapidated structure ordinance, calling for it to include a certified contractor instead of a licensed engineer.
Ennis said the cost to employ an engineer on the board and the availability of interested engineers led to the decision to amend the ordinance.
Heard from Paula Calvert, assistant program manager for C.H.A.N.G.E. Inc., who said there are 10 loans available for first-time homebuyers purchasing homes in Brooke or Hancock counties.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the First-Time Homebuyers Program provides loans up to $10,000 to individuals who meet specific income guidelines and undergo housing counseling intended to improve their chances of keeping the home.
If they live in the home for at least five years, the loan is forgiven.
Calvert said money for five of the loans was rolled over from last year because they weren't used.
She was asked if the money, which is issued through the Northern Panhandle Home Consortium, may be used to provide loans for home repairs. She said she will check with the consortium.
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