$30M ‘feasibility study’ on Harrisburg’s federal courthouse project?

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The long-awaited federal courthouse is getting movement in the form of a potential $30 million study, but some wonder if it’s a waste of taxpayer money.

The only thing besides dandelions growing at North Sixth and Reily streets is curiosity.

“I keep wondering when this is going to finally start, when’s it going to be done,” Jackie Lucas said.

Harrisburg has been promised a new federal courthouse to replace the Ronald Regan Federal Courthouse in the downtown since rumbles began in 1999. This week, the Government Services Administration requested nearly $30 million for a feasibility study.

The Mid-Atlantic GSA office provided this:

“The GSA plan allocates $29,510,000 toward a potential project to meet the space requirements of the court and court­related agencies in Harrisburg, Pa. GSA will undertake a feasibility study to determine the best housing solution, appropriate future funding request amount, and the project schedule.”

Dick Lewis, a longtime realtor in Harrisburg, said the project continues to be a drain for the community and taxpayer money.

“You got a federal courthouse that works,” he said. “It works!”

Jackie Lewis said she, too, is skeptical about the viability of a federal courthouse, but she believes the additional $30 million is too rich.

“Too much money!” she said. “What do you have to study?”

In 2004, $26 million was spent on studies and site acquisition. Many are concerned $56 million will be spent even before ground is broken or a brick is laid.

Congress in December allocated almost $1 billion to overhaul 10 federal courthouses nationwide. Harrisburg remains ninth on the build list.

Nicole Conway of the Vartan Group, a company that owns much of the surrounding property, believed the cost could encompass some site preparation.

“Architectural work, engineering, site utilities being done,” she said. “We do know there are a couple site acquisitions that need to occur.”

The $30 million still needs approval from several congressional committees.

Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pennsylvania) provided ABC27 News with the following statement regarding the federal courthouse:

“After pushing GSA for a funding award for the critical Harrisburg Courthouse project, I am glad we have received word that they will be receiving additional federal support. The project still needs significantly more funding to become a reality and I will continue to push to see this to fruition.”

Conway believes the courthouse needs newer security measures than what may have been previously designed. She said anytime government agrees to fund something, it’s a good sign the courthouse is closer to becoming reality.

“This is definitely a positive,” Conway said. “They’re putting more money into this project. That means they’re committed to it. I don’t think the government is going to spend this kind of money if they don’t have plans to move ahead.”

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