County to Buy Building Next to Prison

SCRANTON -- Lackawanna County commissioners voted to purchase a building behind the county prison. They plan to move some offices there and connect the new building to the prison.

The Lackawanna County Prison has been in its spot on North Washington Avenue for about 130 years. It's been renovated over those many years but there's not much room to grow. Since the building behind the prison on Wyoming Avenue is up for sale, Lackawanna County officials saw an opportunity.

"It is landlocked. I mean, you've got no place else. If there is going to be any type of expansion, but we're not really looking at this as an expansion. It's a service so people don't have to be transported. It's a safety issue," said Lackawanna County President Judge Michael Barrasse.

Judge Barrasse is leading the effort to move some of the functions of the county court system to the new building by the prison.

Right now, each prisoner is transported from the prison 11 blocks to the county courthouse for preliminary court proceedings.

The county commissioners approved the purchase of the building for $875,000.

Commissioner Laureen Cummings did not vote because of concerns over renovation costs.

"The estimate ranges from $1.8 million to about $2.9 million depending on the scope you want to include in the renovation," said Bill Byron of the Palumbo Group.

But Judge Barrasse says the renovations would be paid off in about four years from savings.

"This has really been a nightmare for years in regard to the county. We are now looking at cost savings that you're now not going to have 4,000 prisoners transported, on a daily basis, to the courthouse for their preliminary hearings," Barrasse said.

There's no timetable yet for when some functions of county court will move to Wyoming Avenue. County officials say the purchase of the building is just the first big step.

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