Butler County Commissioners approve purchase of land for district justice's office

| Saturday, July 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Butler County commissioners expect to save money by building a new district justice office in Cranberry and owning the property rather than renting it.

The county commissioners agreed last month to purchase about an acre of land in the 9000 block of Marshall Road from the Bartling family for $96,500, and county officials expect to close the deal soon.

There's no timetable yet for groundbreaking, construction and move in for District Judge David Kovach and his staff, said Butler County Deputy Court Administrator Tom Holman. He said that county officials will start advertising soon for architects and engineers. The building is expected to cost about $700,000.

The sales agreement is June 19, and the county has 180 days to close, said Chief Clerk Amy Wilson.

The county rents office space for Kovach for more than $71,000 a year from Lue-Regent Associates. Commissioner Bill McCarrier estimated an annual debt payment of about $62,000 for the new Cranberry office building, which is expected to have about 3,900 square feet of space, including a courtroom and offices for one administrative assistant and three clerks.

Holman would not detail the security measures for the new building.

The county owns buildings used by district judges Kevin O'Donnell in Butler Township, Peter Shaffer in Butler and Timothy Shaffer in Slippery Rock, Holman said.

It rents office space for district justices in Evans City, Saxonburg and Chicora at a combined cost of $158,000.

For some offices, Holman said, “It's probably better to rent,” because the districts overseen by the judges could be realigned and offices moved as populations shift.

The district judge in Evans City used to oversee the Cranberry area, but the state gave the county a seventh district judge more than a decade ago because of the population growth in Cranberry and the surrounding area.

Butler County is responsible for paying for office space for its seven district judges, plus salaries and benefits for the employees there. Judges are considered state employees and paid by the state.For the first six months of 2013, Kovach had 1,486 cases, including 205 criminal, 208 civil and 876 traffic cases.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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