Mercer County offices will open today, with these provisions:

COURTS

The judicial emergency declared for Mercer County is extended until June 1, 2020. The Mercer County Court of Common Pleas shall be opened to conduct all court business, however, in person access and proceedings shall be strictly limited as set forth below.

This court’s priority shall remain centered on its critical functions. The Court shall try to accomplish the timely administration of justice in all other matters. In all cases access to court facilities shall be restricted so that appropriate social distancing can be maintained.

To the degree practical in light of the necessity of some in-person appearances and proceedings, safety measures, including but not limited to social distancing, hand sanitizing, and wearing of face masks shall be employed as consistently as possible with federal and state executive guidance associated with countering the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

To the extent that hearings and conferences can be held in the presence of counsel only, the court shall permit the parties’ physical presence to be excused. Consistent with prior orders, all courts, including Magisterial District Courts, shall consider deciding matters on papers and/or to conduct court proceedings through the use of advanced communication technologies to the extent that constitutional requirements can be satisfied.

Court filings may be made by mail or by advanced communication technology other than in person delivery whenever possible.

Critical Court functions remain the highest priority and include the following:

Election matters, emergency bail review and habeas corpus hearings, gagnon I hearings, bench warrant hearings pursuant to Rule of Criminal Procedure 150, juvenile delinquency detentions, juvenile shelter, adjudication and disposition, and permanency hearings, temporary protection from abuse hearings, emergency petitions for child custody or pursuant to any provision of the Juvenile Act; Emergency petitions for guardianship, civil mental health reviews (50 P.S. § 7302), emergency equity civil matters (injunctions and stays), any pleading or motion relating to public health concerns and involving immediate and irreparable harm, commencement of a civil action by praecipe for a writ of summons for purposes of tolling a statute of limitations. If this court is closed to filings, the alternative mechanism for filing of an emergency praecipe in the Superior Court shall remain in place as set forth in the Supreme Court’s March 24, 2020 Order.

Any other function deemed by the president judge to be critical consistent with constitutional requirements which in Mercer County include the following:

Sentencing for defendants currently incarcerated, giving priority to defendants with health issues and guilty pleas, conferences, and related activities to criminal cases that are complicated in nature or may be compromised by the passage of time, gagnon II hearings, non-support contempt hearings, arraignment courts, sentencing for defendants currently not incarcerated, opening of estates through Register of Wills Office, by appointment only.

Jury trials, both civil and criminal, remain suspended and will be scheduled for a date in the future by the courts. Assessment shall be made concerning options for the resumption of jury trials consistent with prevailing health and safety norms.

In Magisterial District Courts, to the extent that a payer was or is entitled to a payment determination hearing under this extension provided herein, a missed payment or default shall not result in an issuance of an arrest warrant for failure to make payment nor shall the non-payment result in driving privileges being suspended prior to such hearing. Payments shall be accepted by mail and electronically or by telephone, and the use of such means is strongly encouraged. Payments may be made in person, however, if other means are not available to the payer as may be permissible in the Magisterial District Court receiving the payment.

Rule of Criminal Procedure 600(C) remains suspended in all judicial districts through at least June 1, 2020.

All persons present at any court proceeding, including attorneys, court staff, sheriff deputies, and others shall practice social distancing and take all other precautions. In the smaller courtrooms this may result in attorneys and defendants waiting outside until their case is ready to be presented.

CLERK OF COURTS – 724-662-7548

Any criminal filings needed to be filed may be mailed to the Clerk of Courts, 112 Courthouse, Mercer, PA 16137 or faxed to 724-662-1604.

For anyone needing to make payments on fines, costs or restitution, you may mail your payment to the Clerk of Courts. If you include a self-addressed stamped envelope, they will mail you a receipt. Make online case payments at https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/ Click on ePay under the eCommerce menu and follow the prompts. Should you have further questions, you can contact the Cost Collections Department at 724-662-3800, extensions 2410, 2419 or 2426.

REGISTER OF WILLS ORPHANS’ COURT – 724-662-7548

The Register of Wills office is now probating estates by appointment only. One estate per appointment. Only the executor/administrator may be present with the presence of the attorney only in the office. All renunciations, subscribing and non-subscribing witnesses must be notarized outside the office. All other filings must still be done by mail to the Register of Wills, 112 Courthouse, Mercer, PA 16137. To set up appointments or if you have any questions, please call 724-662-3800, extensions 2246 or 2253.

BEHAVIORAL HEALTH COMMISSION

Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission now has a COVID-19 warm line up and running through central intake during normal business hours. The number is the same - 724-662-2230 - and individuals will need to identify that they would like to speak with someone about COVID-19. They will be asked to leave their name/number and one of the staff will call them back. Please note that when someone is called back, the number will be from a blocked/restricted number since staff are working from home. Staff members will be able to provide linkages to area supports, government websites related to COVID-19, etc. This does not take the place of any other service in our county.

PROTHONOTARY – 724-662-7561

Effective May 11, 2020, the office will be open for filing of documents. However, the office encourages the use of filing by mail, FedEx or UPS. As of May 11, the office will no longer accept fillings by email.

Current Operations of Business:

• Forms for divorces and custody filings are available on the county website for free.

• Passports: The office will not be taking passport applications until June 2, 2020. There are several other locations in the county where you can apply. The official website for passport information is https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html

• PFA (Protection from Abuse): Open for filing of Protection from Abuse cases. Only the party requesting the PFA need appear for the temporary hearing.

• Open for Emergency Equity filings regarding injunctions or stays and filing of Writ of Summons where the statute of limitations is expiring.

ELECTIONS / VOTER REGISTRATION – 724-662-7542

Primary public interaction would include registering to vote, updating a voter registration and applying for an absentee/mail-in ballot. All voter registration and absentee/mail-in applications can be conducted online or by mail.

While the office is open, it is following social distancing guidelines so office access will be limited to one or two people at a time. Visitors might be required to wait in a properly spaced line depending on how busy foot traffic is at any one time. Voters who can should continue to conduct their business electronically at or by mail. 

TAX ASSESSMENT – 724-662-7551

The Mercer County Tax Assessment Office will be open to the public beginning May 11, 2020.

Requests can still be made by phone, fax, or email by following the instructions below. For any other questions or inquiries, please call the office during normal business hours.

Contact Information: Email: mhoover@mcc.co.mercer.pa.us (Property Cards ONLY), Email: cherriott@mcc.co.mercer.pa.us, Fax: 724-662-7549, Mail: 4 Courthouse, Mercer, PA 16137

• Property Cards -- lnclude the map number you are requesting along with your name, address and phone number. 

• Maps -- Requested copies will be mailed along with a copy of the invoice. The cost for a 24x18 Map is $3.00. The cost for a 24x36 Map is $5.00.

• Assessment Appeal Forms -- File by mail and must be received on or before September 1st. Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you would like a filed copy and receipt returned to you.

SHERIFF’S OFFICE – 724-662-6135

To do our part to ensure that we maintain safety for our customers and staff, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office will be accepting applications for a License to Carry Firearms by Mail.

Here are the steps that you will need to follow:

• Fill out the application in its entirety, applications are available at the county website.

• Make a photo copy of your driver’s license. (If there are changes to your driver’s license, such as address or name, make a photo copy of your update card). If you are submitting a renewal application, make a photo copy of your License to Carry Firearms.

• Issue a check or money order in the amount of $20.00 to the Mercer County Sheriff

• Mail completed application, required photo copies, and check or money order to: Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, 205 S. Erie St., Mercer, PA 16137, Attention: Firearms Division

Once your application has been received, and initially processed, you will be called and given a date and time to appear at the Sheriff’s Office to complete your application process for a License to Carry Firearms. As we continue processing applications as quickly as possible, we appreciate your patience in these times of uncertainty. Processing may take up to 45 days.

Sheriff’s Sales of May 4, 2020 are continued to the July 6, 2020 sale date per Court of Common Pleas order.

SOIL CONSERVATION - 724-662-2242

We will be transitioning to normal business operations with limited public hours over the next several weeks. Call the office for public hours of operation. All public and education programs have been cancelled for the month of May. Please feel free to contact us with questions or inquiries during normal hours of operation.

Operations of business: General requests for natural resource and conservation assistance are still preferred to be made by phone or e-mail.

Erosion and sedimentation program: All NPDES permits for construction activities (PAG-02 and Individual), ESCGP-3 and erosion and sedimentation permits submissions can be made by mail or drop off during public hours.

Waterways and wetlands program: All water obstruction and encroachment general permit submissions can be made by mail, drop off during public hours, or by using the Chapter 105 e-Permitting through the PA Department of Environmental Protection website.

Nutrient management program: All nutrient management plan submissions for review can be made by mail or drop off during public hours.

Right to Know: All Right to Know Requests will be handled as part of essential operations with guidance from the Office of Open Records. Additionally, in most cases, inspecting records will not be possible during the emergency or outside of public hours; if a request is necessary, please seek copies of records (preferably electronic). All inspections of records will need an appointment to ensure proper staffing is available to assist.

Watershed, agricultural conservation and environmental education programs will be operating to assist with questions and technical assistance. Staff with these programs can be contacted at our office. They will only be available for limited field and meeting appointments.

TAX CLAIM - 724-662-7550

The Mercer County Tax Claim Bureau will be open to the public beginning May 11, 2020.

However, if you prefer, requests can still be made by phone, fax, or email by following the instructions below. For any other questions or inquiries, please call the office during normal business hours.

Contact information: e-mail: cherriott@mcc.co.mercer.pa.us, fax: 724-662-7549, mail: 3 Courthouse, Mercer, PA 16137

Delinquent tax payments may be made by mail with a personal check, certified bank check, or money order. You may also pay by credit card by going to https://www.paylocalgov.com/Payment/SelectEntity/215; You will need your WEB ID number which appears on correspondence you have received from the Mercer County Tax Claim Bureau.

Tax lien certificates may be purchased online for $10 per map number. The link to request an online tax lien certificate is located on the Tax Claim Bureau tab on the county website. You may also request a tax lien certificate by mail for $5 per map number. These requests will be processed and mailed the date they are received. To expedite getting the information to you, please advise should you wish for us to email or fax a copy of the completed tax lien certificate to you. 

Any requests for private, judicial and repository sales may be submitted by mail.

TREASURER – 724-662-4440 or 724-662-7508

Members of the public will be required to wear masks while conducting business at the Treasurer’s Office and stay behind the Plexiglas barriers on the counters. Only two customers (one per counter) are permitted in the Treasurer office lobby at one time. 

Please conduct as much business as possible with the office from home via phone, mail, or internet.

Dog licenses: Applications and payment can be mailed to the office at 104 Courthouse, Mercer PA 16137. Dog licenses can also be purchased at: https://www.doglicenses.us/PA/Mercer/ 

Hunting and fishing licenses: can be purchased on “The Outdoor Shop” at https://www.doglicenses.us/PA/Mercer/ These will be processed through the Game Commission and Fish Commission and mailed to your address. Effective May 8, these can be printed and signed for immediate use. The Treasurer’s Office will be processing antlerless deer applications through the mail in July.

Boat registrations: The Mercer County Treasurer’s Office will not be suspending boat registrations, but encourage you to use the information on the following site to mail your boat registration directly to the Boat Commission. https://www.fishandboat.com/Boat/RegisterTitle/Pages/default.aspx

Small Games of Chance/Bingo: applications should be sent through the mail with payment. The application will be processed and mailed to your address. If you need blank applications, please visit the county website.

RECORDER – 724-662-7573

Effective Monday, May 11, 2020, the Recorder’s Office will reopen to the public. No more than two people may congregate at our recording counter in order to maintain social distancing. Others will be asked to wait in the hallway or in our research room. No more than six people will be permitted in our research room at one time in order to maintain social distancing. Masks must be worn while inside of the office. Only parties with business to conduct will be permitted inside of the office. Others will be asked to wait in the hallway.

How does this affect land recordings? Submission of documents for recording via U.S. Mail, Fed Ex, and UPS packages. Subdivisions/land development plans along with proper recording fees (check/cash) may be mailed in or left at the security checkpoint inside of the courthouse south entrance. The office is currently in the process of setting up e-recording and will be accepting electronic filings upon completion of installation. 

Can I still perform searches of documents? Yes. Nearly all records are searchable on our website

What if I am a notary and need to record my commission? Any notary public who needs to record their commission should call the office to set up an appointment. Should Mercer County Courthouse close entirely, all notary deadlines will be extended by operation of law to the next business day for Recorder’s offices that are closed by order of the Governor, Secretary of Health, and/or county officials. Long-term closures will mean long-term extensions of time.

I’m a Veteran. Can I still record my DD214? Get a copy of my DD214? Obtain my Operation Veteran Appreciation ID card? Any Veteran who needs to record/obtain a copy of their discharge records or would like to receive their Operation Veteran Appreciation ID discount card should call the Mercer County Veteran’s Office to set up an appointment at 724-662-7511.

For contact information, consult the county website.

VETERANS AFFAIRS – 724-662-7511

Effective Monday: The office for the Department of Veterans Affairs will reopen to the public by appointment only to maintain social distancing standards and to allow our staff to properly sanitize throughout the day.

Hours of operation 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m.: Access to the office will be limited. Office staff will maintain appropriate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Pennsylvania Department of Health, and Mercer County operational guidelines. Veterans should continue using postal mail and electronic means when possible to submit any necessary documents.

Until further notice, no more than three people may access the office at a time. Additional visitors must wait in the hallway. While visiting and working at the courthouse, all veterans, clients, and staff will maintain social distancing and wear appropriate face coverings.