Unidentified party still interested in old Luzerne County juvenile detention center

By Jennifer Learn-Andes - jandes@timesleader.com | July 5th, 2016 1:43 pm

WILKES-BARRE — An unidentified party remains interested in buying Luzerne County’s old juvenile detention center, which would save the county an estimated $400,000 in fees to tear down the building, county Manager C. David Pedri said Tuesday.

The county issued a public request Tuesday seeking bids from interested buyers in the event others are interested, Pedri said.

“It is a public property, and we want to give everybody a chance to review it,” Pedri said.

The deadline to submit purchase offers is 4 p.m. July 19, according to a request for proposals posted at www.luzernecounty.org.

The center is on the same tax assessment parcel as the prison. The successful bidder must pay all costs to subdivide the center into a separate 1.93-acre parcel.

Pedri first confirmed a prospective buyer had surfaced in May. He declined to identify the party, saying the interest is preliminary and may not result in an offer.

Offers to buy county-owned real estate must be publicly presented to the county council for approval, Pedri said.

The three-story structure, which sits atop a hill overlooking the county’s Water Street prison, has been empty since former county judge Michael Conahan deemed it unfit for habitation and stopped sending juveniles there in 2002.

The center had passed state inspection at that time, but Conahan returned the center’s license to the state, forcing its closure and leading to the county’s use of a private detention center that played a role in corruption charges against Conahan and others.

The county administration’s proposed capital plan estimates $400,000 will be needed to demolish the center, which is accessible from a driveway off North River Street.

The county’s original estimate of $160,000 to demolish the detention center and a small county-owned garage on Tannery Street fell short because a recent environmental assessment found airborne asbestos in the center due to the disturbance of material during copper piping thefts, officials have said.

Asbestos remediation required before demolition could cost as much as $100,000.

Built in 1937 as a women’s prison, the center is solid and not leaking but needs a new furnace and other repairs, officials have said. Its choppy layout and shortage of parking makes it unsuitable for county reuse, officials have concluded.

The center roof was replaced in 2003 but is “showing signs of age,” said the new request for proposals.

The old Luzerne County juvenile detention center in Wilkes-Barre.
http://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/web1_juvie01-2.jpgThe old Luzerne County juvenile detention center in Wilkes-Barre. Times Leader file photo

By Jennifer Learn-Andes


Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.