WILKES-BARRE — The Luzerne County Courthouse is scheduled to reopen for business as usual Friday because water pipe leaks behind the building were repaired Thursday afternoon, said county Administrative Services Division Head David Parsnik.
The structure had been closed since Wednesday morning, when contractors breached a water line as they were building new exterior steps to the courthouse sub-basement at the rear of the building.
The first break was repaired Wednesday, but another developed that evening. A third leak was discovered Thursday morning.
Parsnik said the water was turned back on around 3:15 p.m. Thursday.
Court officials scrambled Thursday to move proceedings originally scheduled at the courthouse to the neighboring Bernard C. Brominski building on West North Street and the Penn Place building in the city’s downtown, said county Court Administrator Michael Shucosky.
“Everything was handled very well, but it was difficult. There was a great deal of crowding,” he said.
More than 40 protection-from-abuse hearings that would typically be held in the courthouse before one judge were transferred to the less spacious Brominski building, Shucosky said. Three judges simultaneously presided over these hearings to expedite processing, he said.
Judge Thomas Burke resumed a bench trial at Penn Place and opted to keep the proceeding scheduled there Friday in case the courthouse did not reopen, Shucosky said.
President Judge Richard Hughes is always stationed at Penn Place and took on additional day-to-day cases so they would not have to be rescheduled, Shucosky said.
Judicial Services and Records Division Head Joan Hoggarth positioned clerks at the Brominski building, Penn Place and Courthouse Annex at the corner of River and West Jackson streets Thursday to accept both civil and criminal court filings.
Other prothonotary and clerk-of-court staffers headquartered at the courthouse who reported to work Thursday assisted with duties in the register of wills office at the Courthouse Annex, she said.
County Manager C. David Pedri said the administration will reconstruct what happened and identify which parties are responsible for covering the cost of repairs, stressing the initial focus was on water restoration and maintaining essential services.
Pedri said workers from the contractor — Carbondale-based T. Brennan Heavy Equipment LLC — had contacted Pennsylvania American Water three times this week as work progressed in an attempt to avoid contact with a water pipe.
Water company representatives knew a pipe was in that area but were unsure of its depth, Parsnik said.
T. Brennan’s $265,000 contract also includes work on the rear loading dock, reduction of the fortress-like retaining wall between the parking lot and south lawn, construction of steps from the parking lot to the lawn, and the repair of cracked pavement at the south courthouse entrance that has posed a safety hazard for years.
Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.