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Brooke County pursues courthouse addition

WELLSBURG — The Brooke County Commission agreed Tuesday to hire two legal firms to pursue the sale of bonds for a planned addition to the county courthouse.

The commission approved agreements with Frankovitch, Anetakis, Colantonio and Simon of Weirton and Bowles and Rice of Charleston to share $49,000 in legal fees, contingent upon the issuance of up to $10 million in bonds for the project.

The commissioners stressed voters won’t be asked to support a bond issue for the annex.

Instead the bonds will be sold by one or more banks to private investors, said County Commissioner A.J. Thomas.

For several years the commissioners have considering expanding the courthouse to bring the county’s first judicial circuit, magistrate and family court facilities under one roof.

Concerns about deteriorating conditions, handicap access and emergency evacuation led the commission to return the magistrate court to the building earlier this year. But its current facilities on the ground level of the courthouse are seen as temporary because they are in the floodplain.

The magistrate and family courts were relocated from that area after it was flooded in 2004.

Over the years the commission had purchased and razed two buildings and demolished another of its own, the former county museum, to create space for the addition.

Initial plans called for the first floor of the addition to include a parking garage to reduce the impact of any future flooding, though the former museum was said to take in much less water because of its elevation.

The commissioners said costs for the garage are too high, and the addition instead will be elevated in some way to prevent flooding.

In related business, the commissioners announced they will open bids at 2 p.m. June 5 for the demolition of the former Aracich Heating & Cooling building and an adjacent building on Charles Street.

The commission plans to create new parking spaces on the lots.

The June 5 meeting is being held in lieu of the commission’s June 9 meeting, which has been canceled because of the primary election, and will be held in addition to its June 2 meeting at 10:30 a.m.

In other business, the commission:

¯ Approved an agreement calling for the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission to serve as administrator for $2.2 million in funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to repair a slip between state Route 2 and the Brooke County Pioneer Trail. The commissioners said the work is to be done in two phases, with a section closer to the new Ohio River bridge to come last.

¯ Approved health coverage for the county’s employees through the Health Plan. Commission President Tim Ennis said the commission had anticipated a 9 percent increase in its costs but through the efforts of county employees, who completed questionnaires regarding their health; and Jonette Lasasz of the Schwendemann Agency, the county’s insurance broker, who secured two competing bids for the coverage.

(Scott can be contacted at wscott@heraldstaronline.com.)

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