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Bellefonte Open for Business, Not Closing Streets Friday as Sandusky Case Proceeds

on February 09, 2012 9:18 AM

If you have business Friday in Bellefonte, don't change your plans.

That's the message this week from the borough, which is expecting another deluge of media attention for a court hearing in the Jerry Sandusky criminal case.

Last time the Centre County Courthouse, on Allegheny Street, hosted a Sandusky-case proceeding, the borough restricted traffic and shut down adjacent streets.

That was nearly two months ago now. Bellefonte borough Manager Ralph Stewart called it a learning experience. And with that experience under its belt, Stewart said, the borough will not restrict street and public parking access this time around.

"No one knew what to expect" for that initial proceeding, on Dec. 13, he said. "We didn't know if we were going to have a lot of crowds to deal with. We didn't know what the tone of the crowd was going to be."

As it turned out, outside of the heavy news-media crush, not a lot of protesters, demonstrators or other observers congregated outside the courthouse, Stewart said.

Given that, he went on, borough leadership does not think it needs to close downtown streets again for the proceedings Friday.

Parking for media vehicles will be handled differently, too. Many will be directed to nearby, county-owned parking lots, he said. A media staging area will be set up at a local firefighter-training site.

Last time, many news-media vehicles took up on-street spaces in the downtown area. Some journalists are expected to use street parking this time around, though the impact on local businesses and other non-media types should be less severe.

Because the borough won't be blocking off streets or establishing an independent police command post, it won't spend as much money on overtime and other costs as it did Dec. 13, Stewart said. Its expenses for that earlier proceeding were about $5,000.

On Friday, they should be a fraction of that, Stewart said.

"I would stress that the community is accessible," he said. "If people have appointments in the downtown or come in for business, everything should be smooth. There shouldn't be any detours. People should be able to conduct their normal business. That's our goal."

Seventy reporters have pre-registered to attend the observe the court proceedings first-hand Friday, though that figure does not include journalists who may be stationed exclusively outside the courthouse. (The official registrants include two reporters.)

Scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in the courthouse, the proceedings will center on two requests: one, from the prosecution, for an out-of-county jury; the other, from the defense, for loosened bail conditions for Sandusky.

The event will not mark the start of a trial in the case; that has yet to be scheduled.

The Dec. 13 event was to have been a preliminary hearing. Involved parties gathered in the courtroom that day, but Sandusky, a former Penn State football coach, agreed to a waiver just before the hearing was to have begun.

Earlier coverage is available via the page linked below.

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