Clarion County has new home for DA’s office

Clarion County’s real estate buying spree may be at an end. The board of commissioners on Tuesday announced the purchase of a building, at 514 Liberty St. in Clarion, that is owned by Jeffrey and Deborah Green.

The building, which currently houses a chiropractic office, will be the new office of the Clarion County district attorney.

The DA’s office is currently located at 502 Liberty St., in a building owned by current DA Mark Aaron, who informed the county of the termination of the lease effective Dec. 31.

The county agreed to pay $155,000 for the 3,000-square-foot building.

Commissioner Wayne Brosius noted the nominee for DA, Drew Welsh, has examined the building and found it to be suitable for his needs.

Aaron ran for the position of Clarion County judge in the 2019 primary, but was defeated by Sara Seidle-Patton. Even if he had won, the county would have been forced to relocate the DA’s office.

“We had anticipated this might happen last year when Mark (Aaron) announced he was going to run for judge,” Commissioner Ted Tharan said. “We had set aside $500,000 for capital purchases in our budget in anticipation of something like this happening.

“Mark has treated us fairly over the past 20 years. He decided to do something else with the building. Time moves on. He gave us three months and the lease said he only had to give us 30 days.”

Tharan said there are four offices that run out of the DA’s office: the district attorney’s, CNET’s, the Drug Task Force’s and the county detectives’s.

Tharan said a secure DA’s office is vital, noting evidence is stored there, and the DA also will be able to store case files in the building.

“We ruled out leasing because it provides access to the building from outside entities who own the building,” Tharan said. “We felt it was critical that we own the building.

“The county has spent about $282,000 in rent in the last 19 years to have a DA’s office. If they had purchased the building 19 years ago, we would still have a DA’s office today.”

Tharan said it was “prudent and in the best interests of the county” to finance the purchase of the building and “there is just not enough space in the courthouse.”

Tharan said the move of the DA’s office will have no impact on any renovation plans within the courthouse. He hopes the closing on the property will be about Oct. 15.

According to Tharan, it will cost the county about $20,000 to move the office.

“We have to have fiber lines run in there, security cameras inside and outside and a door-lock system. But it is already ADA (Americans with Disabilities ACT) accessible,” he said.

“It already has offices in it, new windows, it is air-conditioned and the basement is dry. Structurally, the building is in very good condition.”

The county’s maintenance workers will complete remodeling of the building.

“We have to be out of the current building by Dec. 31 and that was why it was critical to act rapidly,” Tharan said. “We hope to get the new office up and running while we are still using the old office. We only want to move once.”