Update, May 3: On Wednesday, the Lancaster County commissioners unanimously approved the settlement agreement with Wanda Nye.
The Lancaster County commissioners will vote Wednesday on an agreement to resolve a property dispute that was holding up the acquisition of 5 acres for the county correctional facility project in Lancaster Township.
The property is owned by the Fraternal Order of Police, but Wanda Nye, who owns the Dirty Ol’ Tavern property next door, claimed she had a right of first refusal on the sale, through an agreement between the FOP and her deceased husband, Richard Shelley.
That stymied plans for a routine real estate sale between the FOP and the county. Instead, with the FOP’s blessing, the county filed for eminent domain, proposing compensation of $265,000 — a price previously agreed to, based on assessment of the property value.
Nye challenged the taking in county court. Last week, however, the court dismissed her key claim, that she had a valid right of first refusal. In light of that, Nye and the county have reached an agreement under which Nye agrees to withdraw her objections, county special counsel Claudia Shenk of McNees Wallace & Nurick told the commissioners at their Tuesday work session.
Under the agreement, the county will allow spillover parking from the Dirty Ol’ Tavern onto the FOP property, and Nye will grant the county an emergency access easement through the Dirty Ol’ Tavern property.
“We believe this is a good resolution of this part of the case,” Shenk said.
The court will still have to determine whether $265,000 is appropriate compensation, and whether Nye is entitled to any of it. However, the transfer of ownership itself can move forward and be finalized, Shenk said.
The 5-acre FOP property is adjacent to the larger “Kreider” tract that the county secured for the prison project. Commissioner Ray D’Agostino noted that the county has already had the FOP property assessed and appraised.
“We don’t anticipate a lot of difference (in price),” he said.
The agreement is essentially what the county wanted from the start, Commissioner Josh Parsons said. He emphasized: “This was a friendly use of eminent domain.”
Commissioner John Trescot agreed.
“The seizure of property is not something I support in general,” he said. “In this case, it made sense.”
Commissioners noted that the plan will help to create walking trails along the Conestoga River in the area.
In other prison-related news, commissioners reviewed several purchase contracts for approval Wednesday, including $188,000 for a four-year lease of handheld ‘Spartan’ devices used for inmate tracking and inmate head counts; and a $94,000 one-year contract to maintain the prison’s security camera system.
Another award to I.B. Abel would involve $94,000 for camera systems over one year.
Commissioners also looked at plans to use $2.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for prison and law enforcement costs, as follows:
- Software for Prison Reporting System: $2.25 million
- Digital evidence for the district attorney’s office: $366,343
- Case management software: $106,094
- Testing for inmates: $45,180
D’Agostino pointed out that many of the funds were previously approved, and that some of the costs were also approved last year.
Director of budget services Patrick Mulligan said the cost for the prison reporting software is an estimate based on an RFP.
The new software system is needed because the existing system is not going to be available in future years.
“There is no way around it. We need to update this technology,” Parsons said.