Work release center proposed in Rush Twp.|
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
By Tyler Kolesar Staff Writer
PHILIPSBURG - The Rush Township Planning Commission heard a proposition from Keystone Correctional Services Inc. about putting a work release center where the old driving range is located off of U.S. Route 322, much to the dismay of many in attendance.
At last night's meeting, Doug Gamber of Raudenbush Engineering said KCSI first presented a sketch to the planning commission in July. The goal is to have a work release center that would be a 40,000 to 42,000 square foot building on the 32-acre parcel. Inside the center would be approximately 300 beds.
However with 300 beds, Gamber said many, if not all, of the people staying at the center would not have access to automobiles. Therefore, there were only 42 projected parking spots with the plans presented.
The point of entry off of U.S. 322 would be exactly where parking was located for the driving range/restaurant. The old restaurant building would be left standing to use for staff and storage purposes, while the old miniature golf area would be ripped out for the facility. The facility will also be sprinkled with evergreen trees as a type of barrier surrounding the property, and the group will also install a storm water manage facility on site.
Overall, Gamber said the bulk of the property would be untouched, as they would only utilize approximately 5.5 acres of the 32-acre parcel. For sewage, they would hook onto the line currently serviced by the Moshannon Valley Regional Business Park.
Gamber said they were not looking for approval this month, as they already knew going into the meeting that there are things that still need worked out. One of the issues brought up by the planning commission was the lack of parking spaces. Gamber and Craig Williams of KSCI said facilities with 150 beds tend to utilize 18 to 20 spaces, so Gamber said he feels parking should be "more than adequate".
Rush Township Supervisor Mike Savage asked about where the people staying at the facility would be working, as that is what parolees tend to do. Savage also asked how they would be transported. Options could include using public transportation, using vans, or other methods.
Township engineer Michelle Merrow agreed transportation was a concern, and said she had concerns too. Merrow said there will not be as many jobs created as previously thought. She also said there is "severe limitation" with sewer for the site. Had there not been access to public sewer and water there, Merrow said she would had advised this project to be placed elsewhere. She also recommended to the planning commission to table accepting plans.
Savage said back in October 2011, they were approached by the group about putting the facility in. Savage said at that time, they advised against it due to its location off of U.S. 322 and it being next to the industrial park and bowling alley. Savage also said they told the KSCI to get public input on the matter, to which he said he's not aware it's been done.
KSCI's other facility is located in Harrisburg. Many asked of all locations in the state, why choose this property. Bellefonte resident Chip Aikens said he became friends with ordained minister Mark Fraley and formed a non-profit organization that originally looked at the old Rider Auto building just up the road in 2009.
At that time, the duo did not have the funding to complete a center and it was rejected. After this, they met KSCI President Terry Davis who then came on board.
Aikens said they privately met with Savage and Supervisor Pat Couturiaux about their idea, and said both supervisors said it was worth pursuing. Savage and Couturiaux immediately denied saying it was worth pursuing, with Savage said Aikens had taken that out of context.
"We met with you first when you were simply proposing the concept," said Savage.
Aikens also said he feels it should be tabled. After many other questions and much more discussion, the commission decided to table the issue until more work is done on the plans.