BELLEFONTE — The Centre County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday granted approval for the advertising of invitations for bids for the renovation of the Centre Crest Building.

The move is a step forward for the county’s plan to repurpose the 85-year-old, county-owned building into a central hub for various departments.

The 118,000-square-foot former nursing home in Bellefonte, vacant since the opening of Centre Care in 2021, looks to accommodate multiple county services under one roof.

County Administrator John Franek Jr. outlined the process leading up to this point, emphasizing a commitment to human services as the primary purpose of the renovated facility. The departments are currently spread out in the Willowbank Building, which is in need of space, and leased offices.

“We’ve gone through two phases. We’ve gone through a feasibility study to determine what would be the best possible use of the facility, and we identified that as primarily being a human services facility which would help serve the citizens of the county,” Franek stated.

After the feasibility study, the project went into its design phase, taking into consideration details that would provide the best service and experience to the community.

In 2022, the county issued $40 million in general obligation bonds to fund multiple capital projects, including about $30 million for the Centre Crest overhaul. Commissioners already approved in August a $1.4 million contract for roof replacement and related work for the building at 502 E. Howard St..

Franek said the county is looking to post the bid ads Dec. 12 and 18, with a pre-bid meeting tentatively scheduled for Dec. 19.

“Bids are due mid-January and then would go to the controller, which is typically what we do at the county, and we would have opening of the bids at that same deadline on that same day,” Franek explained.

Not all commissioners were in support of approving advertisements for bids. Commissioner Steve Dershem expressed objections related to the Responsible Contractor Ordinance, voicing his concerns about its impact on local contractors and tradespeople. The ordinance, which Dershem opposed when it was approved 2-1 in June, established new requirements for contractors to be eligible to bid on county government-owned construction projects of $250,000 or more, including that 70% of the craft labor workforce be journeypersons, workers who have completed a state- or federally-approved apprenticeship training or those currently enrolled in such programs.

“That’s regrettable because that basically means I cannot support the lead of this bid,” Dershem stated. “I don’t think it’s fair to our local contractors, and I don’t think it’s fair to the tradesmen that live here in Centre County.”

“Quite frankly, I think it’s going to have a deleterious effect on our taxation, so, regrettably, I’m going to have to pass on this one,” Dershem concluded.

Commissioner Chair Mark Higgins, on the other hand, emphasized the significance of the renovation, highlighting the benefits of consolidating human services and providing necessary space for the election office.

Commissioner Vice Chair Amber Concepcion also supported the move, emphasizing the long process of ensuring that the designs meet the county’s needs and addressing community questions about the project’s priority.

“I think it’s worth noting Centre County has been providing human services with a lot of commitment, but with rental space it is not necessarily purpose built for the functions that it serves, and this is going to allow us to really better serve our community,” she stated.

Concepcion continued, “It’s also a fiscally responsible approach because we’ll have an asset that the county owns rather than continuing to pay rent indefinitely.”

Franek explained that the renovation is set to focus on the existing structure, with no additions planned.

Franek also detailed some interior changes, including a gutting of the building, removal of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems and improvements such as better insulation. The county aims to complete the project and move in by June or July of 2025.

The commissioners voted 2-1 to approve the advertisement for bids for the Centre Crest building renovation, with Dershem casting the lone dissenting vote.’s Geoff Rushton contributed to this report.

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