BANGOR, Maine — Scott Carpenter said he always has been fascinated with the justice system.
Even though the Penobscot Judicial Center was closed for business, the Bangor man was one of more than 200 people who toured the 6-month-old facility Tuesday afternoon after the formal dedication of the building.
“I think this building benefits everyone,” Carpenter, 61, of Bangor said after a tour conducted by court staff. “The technology is just amazing. I’m also impressed with the security that the judges and the public have now. I wish all courthouses had it.”
The $36.4 million building combined the former Bangor District Court and the Penobscot County Superior Court, both previously located on Hammond Street. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held on Sept. 21, 2007, and the building opened on Nov. 23, 2009.
The new facility has seven courtrooms, 18 conference rooms, 10 judicial chambers and 10 setups for video conferencing. The public, judges and prisoners only come together in courtrooms. More than 100 cameras throughout the building monitor what is happening in the courtrooms, hallways, holding cells, underground park-ing lot and front entrance. Entry screening occurs every day the courthouse is open.
“This is one of the most exciting days we have had in forever,” Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Leigh I. Saufley said Tuesday morning as she handed a pair of gold scissors to her colleague Justice Warren Silver. Silver ceremoniously cut a wide, blue ribbon stretched in front of the entrance to the red brick building, located between the Kenduskeag Stream and Exchange Street.
More than 250 federal, state, county and local officials, along with members of the Penobscot County Bar Association, then moved inside for a more formal ceremony with Gov. John Baldacci. Those in attendance included judges, lawyers, politicians, construction workers, architects and court employees. Nearly everyone who had a hand in seeing that the Penobscot Judicial Center was funded, designed and built turned out for its dedication Tuesday morning.
At a longer session inside, Baldacci said that because the event was in his hometown, the completion of the modern courthouse and the dedication were personal for him.
“To have this building here in the middle of the community brings back a little bit of the heart and soul of Bangor in an area that was part of urban renewal,” the governor said.
The lot on which the courthouse sits was the last city-owned parcel still vacant as a result of a federal program in the 1960s that resulted in the destruction of the nearby Union Station and many other Bangor buildings.
Saufley joked with Silver and Baldacci, who sat on either side of her, throughout the 45-minute event. But, as she concluded her speech, the chief justice’s mood became more serious as she reflected on a courthouse’s place in a community.
“A courthouse is so much more than the sum of its parts,” she said. “It is both a symbol of our culture’s commitment to justice, and a very real gathering place for the resolution of disputes. It must reflect the respect for the rule of law and the dignity of a place where incredibly difficult decisions are made.
“It is a place where victims of crime come for justice,” Saufley continued. “Where separated parents work toward a sane life for their children, where business disputes are resolved and where those who are threatened with violence come for protection. Although we think often of courthouses as places where sad events unfold, in many instances a courthouse is where new beginnings occur.”
No business was conducted at the courthouse on Tuesday. Regular business will resume at 8 a.m. today.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments today and Thursday in Courtroom 202, where Tuesday’s dedication ceremony was held.