The COVID-19 pandemic has the Clearfield County Prison Board looking at alternate locations to hold Centralized Court — including a former banquet hall that is now a church.
The county holds most of its preliminary hearings, which are presided over by the magisterial district judges, once a week at Centralized Court.
Historically, Centralized Court has been held at the Clearfield County Jail on Wednesdays. Those hearings were temporarily moved to the Clearfield County Courthouse due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but President Judge Fredric Ammerman said that wasn’t working out. Those hearings have returned to the jail.
However, Warden David Kessling said he would prefer if Centralized Court was not held at the jail.
“It’s an issue of spreading COVID-19 and it’s a security issue at the facility,” Kessling said of having Centralized Court at the CCJ.
He instead recommended the county build a new building next to the jail to house magisterial district judge’s offices and hearing rooms for preliminary hearings, instead of renting office space for the MDJ.
As a temporary measure, Ammerman said he and Clearfield County Court Administrator F. Cortez “Chip” Bell III are looking into the possibility of renting the former Florian Banquet Hall located on Mill Road in Clearfield, which is now owned by the Tri County Church, for preliminary hearings for non-incarcerated defendants.
Church officials have informed him that they are interested in renting the space to the county.
“Perhaps this is our short term answer to that problem,” Ammerman said.
He said he and Bell are going to tour the building to make sure it would be feasible and invited Clearfield County Commissioners and District Attorney Ryan Sayers to attend as well.
The banquet hall was formerly owned by the Lawrence Township Fire Company No. 1, which sold it to the church a couple of years ago.