New state police building to remain vacant

August 22, 2013
High weeds surround a new state police property and supply building perched atop an unsightly retaining wall along Route 519 in North Bethlehem Township. - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

As construction winds down on a new state police supply building in Washington County, the $3.4 million structure will remain unoccupied until further notice.

With a planned new state police Troop B barracks next door to the property and supply building on Route 519 in North Bethlehem Township nearly a decade behind schedule, the decision was made to keep everything at the old barracks in Washington, rather than shuffle troopers and supplies “back and forth,” said state police Lt. Dan Hines.

“It’s frustrating,” Hines said Thursday. “The taxpayers, that’s their money. They see it built and expect to see us there.”

The building is attractive, yet it sits atop an unsightly retaining wall and behind a fence that is overgrown with weeds.

“That has to be the ugliest retaining wall in the world,” said state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, whose district is host to the troop.

He said the building projects, including new and remodeled state Department of Transportation headquarters at the site, have “had such a roller coaster ride,” which has left the new barracks in a holding pattern.

“It’s just not moving along as fast a some people would like,” Solobay said Wednesday.

The new barracks was supposed to be under construction in the fall of 2010, at a time when it was considered a “No. 1” plan to relocate troopers from a building dating to 1949 on Murtland Avenue to Route 519 near the Interstate 70 Eighty Four interchange. That construction date was more than six years behind schedule.

Police announced in 2004 the new barracks would be built on 30 acres of property the state received in a donation from Consol Energy in Southpointe. The current barracks is cramped and outdated and its location sees a lot of traffic congestion.

The state Legislature, however, has yet to authorize the nearly $9 million to construct the 13,400-square-foot barracks.

“The process is never easy,” Solobay said.

He said the barracks remains in the design phase, without a date set for construction. Meanwhile, Solobay said, the state is expected to begin construction next summer on a wastewater treatment plant to serve the PennDOT buildings.

State police also Thursday announced it will send a maintenance crew to the property to deal with the overgrown weeds, Hines said.

Hines said a weed killer will be needed for the areas between the fence and retaining wall because “it’s one step away from a 30-foot fall.”

He said police want to make the area “as presentable as possible to the public.”

“It’s unfortunate. It’s a beautiful building.”

The 9,000-square-foot building is designed to accommodate supply storage for several area substations and has an evidence room, lockers and areas to maintain and impound vehicles.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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