MIFFLINTOWN - While the Juniata County Commissioners continued to consider the fate of the county prison Tuesday, they also discussed the future of the trees surrounding the courthouse.
The old, towering oak trees that border the courthouse lawn require ongoing maintenance, an issue the commissioners discussed during their weekly meeting.
While the meeting was happening inside, an oak outside on the Main Street side of the lawn was being cut down.
Chairman Jeffrey Zimmerman said they were advised to remove the tree after it was damaged in a thunderstorm Sunday. Once it is gone, the corner tree will no longer block the wind and weather from several remaining trees, he said.
Many of the large trees already are rotting or pinned together, and they may not be able to withstand a change in wind patterns, Zimmerman said.
Commissioner Teresa O'Neal said they have worked hard to maintain and repair the trees; but storm damage and rot pose "a serious safety issue for people walking or driving on the street."
The commissioners said they are beginning to consider options. One may be planting new trees from the seedlings that the Penn State Cooperative Extension collects from the lawn, Zimmerman said.
When asked about the Juniata County Prison, O'Neal said she still is waiting for information.
On May 29, O'Neal said before deciding whether to close the prison, she would like to have a uniform construction code inspection of the building and a report from the Department of Corrections about space requirements.
A small crowd of public officials, prison employees and members of the public attended the meeting Tuesday. Several have voiced their opposition to closing the prison.
Information about the prison is now available on the county website at co.juniata.pa.us. Documents include prison cost analysis reports from 2009 to 2011, a prison population history and the proposed costs to house prisoners outside the county. The reports also are available at the commissioners' office.
If the prison closes and inmates are moved to another county, the commissioners estimate saving about $617,000 per year. About 21 full- and part-time employees would be affected.
Along with cost savings, the commissioners have said there are safety and security issues inside the prison building - which was constructed in 1833 - that cannot be ignored.
In other business, the commissioners approved a technology upgrade that also will help with security updates in the county government offices.
The board voted to purchase a new router at a cost of $8,672.60 for hardware and software. Extra set-up costs may apply to some offices.
A recent technology analysis of the county identified the router as the primary obstacle for its computer systems, Commissioner Robert Reynolds said.
The new router also will accommodate security updates such as cameras and an automatic door locking system, Reynolds said. Part of the cost for the router may be paid for with a security grant, he said.
The upgrade also will fix video conferencing issues for judges, O'Neal said.
The Juniata County Commissioners hold weekly public meetings at 10 a.m. each Tuesday in the Bousum Building, Main Street, Mifflintown.