CLEARFIELD – Despite debate over the proposed lease agreement from the SPCA for the construction of an animal shelter on a five-acre parcel near the jail, the Clearfield County commissioners on Tuesday agreed to engage in further discussions before moving forward.
In fact, the commissioners plan to meet with SPCA representatives, their attorney and surveyor to negotiate the location of the animal shelter on the county’s property as well as to establish the parameters of the acreage for the proposed facility.
Last Friday, solicitor Kim Kesner said he received a revised surveyor map and utility easement from the attorney for the SPCA. In addition, his attention was called to an old railroad right-of-way that the county may possibly still have access to. He advised the commissioners that they may want to have it reviewed by the county’s chief field assessor as a result.
In addition, Commissioner Chairperson Joan Robinson-McMillen said the current surveyor’s map showed a rectangular-shaped, five-acre parcel that was proposed for lease by the SPCA. Also, she said it showed that the jail would have access to enough property to at least double its current size.
Commissioner John A. Sobel said he wanted to see the board authorize Kesner to contact the SPCA and its attorney to finalize the lease so that it could be presented for their approval. “I think we should light this candle and proceed forward,” he said.
If the county still has access, Robinson-McMillen wanted to preserve the railroad right-of-way. She said rail access was important for the county to grow and to allow it to economically prosper.
However, Commissioner Mark B. McCracken again pointed out that the SPCA’s proposed, five-acre parcel splits the county’s property into two parcels. He said it had potential to be problematic and suggested the lease be revised before being approved by the board.
More specifically, McCracken pushed for wording that would require the SPCA to turn over all but one acre of its parcel if the county would need access to the acreage in the future. In the past, he said there were discussions of it being the location of a joint correctional facility for both Clearfield and Jefferson counties. He also mentioned that the jail may also need adequate property if it was to expand at some point in the future.
“I don’t have any problem with that. Those are all legitimate worries. I’m not disagreeing with you,” Sobel said. “But we need to move this thing along, so it doesn’t make these people not want to come here. The SPCA can’t move along.”
McCracken said it was valuable county property, which belonged to the taxpayers. He said it provides the county with options, and he wants the future prison board and boards of commissioners to have access to it.
Sobel then suggested that the board authorize Kesner to negotiate the acreage to be permitted by the lease agreement. He said the SPCA has been more than patient, and these issues should have been discussed a year ago.
“We’re throwing up obstacles in their way. It’s like starting over again,” Sobel said. Robinson-McMillen pointed out the current SPCA facility was “woefully inadequate” and has limited access to the people of Clearfield County.
Rather than him negotiating the guidelines of the lease, Kesner suggested that the commissioners set up a meeting with the SPCA representatives, their attorney and the surveyor regarding the property issues.
McCracken said he didn’t oppose the SPCA facility being located there. Instead, his opposition was only with the location of the facility on the county’s property, and the limitations it may present for them in the future, he said.
According to a prior GantDaily report, Peter Smith, attorney for the SPCA, said the current shelter, located on Graham Station Road in Philipsburg, isn’t able to sufficiently facilitate their services. He said it has become mandatory for them to construct a new shelter, which would be a $1 million facility. He said they would begin a capital campaign pending the approval of the lease.
Smith said the proposed location was “ideal,” as it would not only make them more visible, but also more accessible. He also believed that it would become a facility that the local citizens would be “proud of.”
Sobel said then that he had read the drafted lease and found it satisfactory. However, he deferred further review of the same to Kesner, who urged them to look more critically at the parcel’s boundaries.
Kesner pointed out that the commissioners had previously petitioned the Lawrence Township Supervisors to change the zoning of the property from rural agricultural to industrial limited. He indicated that the latter would have prohibited the construction of an animal shelter.
Kesner, too, indicated that their petition had been amended, and zoning changes wouldn’t be made on this particular property. He noted there was a strip of land along United States Route 322 that may affect the plans of the SPCA.
When they met with Lawrence Township officials, Kesner said they weren’t able to provide more specific information about the previously said strip of land. He pushed for them all to determine the exact boundaries rather than just an approximate for the five-acre parcel.
“It’s something to look at closely. It needs to be critically looked at. We don’t want to be cornering ourselves with the needs of the jail,” he said.