The Lower Southampton Township district courthouse ceased to exist Friday following a troublesome year which put the end of an election for a judge seat.
The Lower South 7-1-06 court has been apart of Bucks County for nearly 50 years, at one time within the police station in a small room. The Desire Avenue location will not stay dark for long.
On Monday morning John McMenamin, Township Manager, will perform a walk through to assess the condition of the building. He explained his preference would be renting to another government agency.
“At this point, we (the Township administration) are not ruling anything out,” McMenamin said, “we want to ensure the building will be utilized in the best possible way.”
According to reports, the courthouse rent’s the space for about $80,000 a year plus insurance and additional maintenance from the Township.
The process for the final decision of the Lower South district court was not always favorable. In early April, Joseph McFadden, Township Supervisor Vice Chairman, held a Town Hall in attempt to keep the courthouse open.
President Judge Jeffrey Finely sent a request to the Pennsylvania SupremeCourt to close the Lower Southampton and Perkasie district courts due to low docket numbers.
The decision was ultimately approved and will move cases from the Lower South Township over to the Penndel DC 7-1-07 located on Centre Street under Judge Daniel Baranoski.
During the April meeting, residents expressed their displeasures including the distance from Lower South to Penndel for the police officers and their possible court dates.
“I think residents have settled into the decision,” McFadden said the day before the doors closed. “It’s been a smooth transition and the police department found the route back from Penndel is shorter than their trip there.”
McFadden stated most of the court employees have been offered jobs within the county. He also acknowledged how accommodating Judge Baranoski has been with the transition.
Lt. Michael Pennington of the Lower Southampton Police Department confirmed the only thing that may change is response time.
Throughout the Supreme Court’s decision process, and the triple indictments within the Township Pennington said the department “never missed a beat.”
Former Judge John Waltman along with Robert Hoops, former Public Safety Director, and Bernard Rafferty, former constable were indicted at the end of 2016. The trio has been charged with money laundering, health care fraud, and related charges and currently await trial in Philadelphia.
“People made choices and everybody gets their day in court,” McFadden spoke on the incident, “however it’s been an unfortunate event, but it’s the actions of individuals, not the Township.”
Judge Philip Daly filled the spot in Lower South, but the indictments sprung a heated five candidate race for the permanent seat which fizzled cold. McFadden knew all of the men who ran for Judge and understood the disappointed felt.
“I think this (the closing) will always be a work in progress for the Township,” Lt. Pennington told WBCB, “I don’t know that they’ll ever not try and get the courthouse back.”
As for the Police Department, Chief John Krimmel has been with Lower South since he was a patrol officer and Pennington said, “everybody here knows their job.”
Despite the courthouse closing and recent “turmoil” within the Township, Lower South has plenty to look forward to, according to McMenamin. The Playwicki Farm House is gaining new renovations and the Dolphin Swim Club had a “successful season,” the Township Manager explained.
“We kind of picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off and moved forward. And things are looking up for Lower Southampton.”