Funding sought for court projects

Posted March 03, 2009, at 8:44 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:01 a.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The consolidation of the Dover-Foxcroft District and Superior courts, an addition and renovations to the Augusta courthouse, and an addition to the Machias courthouse will be included in a legislative bill for funding.

“We’re going back to the Legislature and proposing a project again that develops three courthouses — Augusta, Machias and Dover-Foxcroft,” James “Ted” Glessner, state court administrator, said Tuesday.

If funding is approved, the Augusta project would start later this year, the Dover-Foxcroft project would begin next year and the Machias project the year after that, according to Glessner. No estimate of the costs was available Tuesday.

The favored concept for the Augusta courthouse is to build an addition onto the back side of the existing county courthouse, Glessner said. The space in the old county courthouse would be renovated as part of the project. The project would involve the purchase of land and closure of the street behind the courthouse, he said.

The state spent $37 million on the new Bangor courthouse, and the Augusta project will be a little larger than that, according to Glessner.

Although no discussions have been held with Washington County officials as yet, Glessner said the intent would be to construct an addition to the combined Superior and District court building in Machias.

As for Dover-Foxcroft, Glessner said the approach now being eyed is to combine the District Court with the Superior Court, similar to a project being completed in Houlton.

This would involve renovations within the county-owned Superior Court building and the need to acquire more space within the facility.

“Because it has worked so well [in Houlton], people have said why can’t you do the same thing in Dover, have something really nice without building a standalone courthouse, and I think that’s a good idea,” Glessner said.

The Dover-Foxcroft court project has been under consideration for many years. Although court officials asked for $9.5 million last year for a new building, the Legislature authorized only $5 million, but then did not include any funds to pay off the bonds for the project. That put everything in a stalemate, according to Glessner.

Hoping a different approach may be the answer, Glessner said the construction of a standalone building has been shelved in favor of renovations to the Superior Courthouse.

If the Legislature accepts the proposal, Glessner said he would return to the Piscataquis County commissioners to discuss the change. Part of the discussion will include freeing up space in the Superior Courthouse for the court, he said. An architect would be retained to look at the renovation possibilities.

“As I’ve said all along, this really represents a long-term commitment in Dover-Foxcroft, which I think is important,” Glessner said.

If county and court officials approach this kind of a consolidation plan, Glessner thinks it has a chance for success. “I’m not optimistic if I’m going back to the Legislature and asking again for the $9.5 million project,” he said.

dianabdn@myfairpoint.net

876-4579

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