Last updated: February 20. 2013 1:55AM - 574 Views

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Luzerne County officials continue to weigh options to reopen one of the three main county courthouse entrances.

Courthouse visitors have been limited to the building's rear entrance in recent weeks, in part because the security department lost two guards through layoffs, officials say.

The change prompted complaints from some citizens and council members who believe a main entryway should be available.

County Chief Engineer Joe Gibbons said he is analyzing security staff schedules to determine if an additional station can be covered with reduced staff. The plan must accommodate union-mandated sick and vacation days and allow for one guard to act as a floater, covering stations while others are on breaks.

The security department went from 18 to 16 guards with layoffs that took effect Dec. 3. County guards provide security at several county-owned properties.

If adequate staffing is identified, county Manager Robert Lawton said he'd prefer to open the north entrance facing North Street, near the Veterans Memorial Bridge, because it is located near a traffic light. It would allow pedestrians to cross River Street at a traffic control device rather than the middle of the block, Lawton said.

However, Gibbons said the north entrance isn't an option at this time because the sidewalk and stairs must be repaired. They are slated for repair in 2014, as part of the multimillion-dollar courthouse grounds restoration project.

If we did open another entrance, said Gibbons, it would probably have to be the south side temporarily until the 2014 restoration is complete.

The 2014 project, to be funded by past-borrowed capital money, also will address a century-old deteriorating wall that runs behind the courthouse. The wall will be eliminated or replaced with a scaled-back version, he said.

Repairs to the monument section of the lawn, the rear courthouse parking lot and realignment of the rear courthouse access road to connect it to West Union Street also are part of the 2014 project, he said.

The county will spend about $1.3 million replacing the courthouse roof and elevators this year, Gibbons said. The courthouse elevators are safe but require frequent repair and maintenance, he said.

The county completed a $5.2 million restoration phase last year that focused on the exterior entrances and repairs above the roofline, including work on the domes, to stop leaks that damaged the interior.

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