Piscataquis court renovations under way

Posted July 21, 2010, at 12:10 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:37 a.m.

MILO, Maine — Signatures inked on an amended lease agreement Tuesday settled the issue of whether the state intends to make District Court improvements in Dover-Foxcroft.

The Piscataquis County commissioners, who met in the Milo Town Hall, signed a 20-year renewable lease with the state for space in the county-owned Superior Court building. The lease allows the state to invest $5 million in renovations to consolidate all of its court operations into the Superior Court building.

“We’ve been talking about this for an awful long time,” Commissioner Tom Lizotte said Tuesday of the need for improvements. He said he was pleased the project was moving forward.

County officials have urged state officials since 1987 to make improvements to the District Court facility, which is located in a former home owned by the county. The facility is not only overcrowded on court days, but it also poses a security risk, which includes having witnesses and victims seated in proximity to defendants in the small courtroom.

Over the years, discussions have included construction of a new District Courthouse and renovations of either the District Court building or the Superior Court building.

It was the latter that state officials settled upon because it is more cost-effective.

Jeffrey D. Henthorn, state director of court facilities, told commissioners Tuesday that advertisements were submitted last Friday for an architect for the project. While a state official said a few months ago that the project would be completed this year, Henthorn told the commissioners it would take about five months for the architect to finish the work and 17 to 18 months for the project to be completed.

Under the project, the District and Superior courts will use the entire second story of the Superior Court building. A new courtroom will be constructed where the deeds office is located, and the deeds office will be relocated to the first floor in a new addition. As part of the project, the current courtroom in the Superior Court building will be renovated. Two small additions also will be made to the building.

The commissioners were told the work would be done in stages to help avoid disruption of county business and the courts.

The only offices losing a home from the renovation will be the county commissioners office and the county treasurer’s office, both of which will be relocated to the existing District Court building.

Under the lease, the state will pay the county $1 a year for rent and the county will provide liability insurance coverage and upkeep once the renovations are complete. The state will pay the electricity and telecommunications costs for the second floor, 75 percent of the maintenance costs for the second floor, 50 percent of the custodian’s salary for 20 hours a week, and 50 percent of the cleaning supplies, elevator inspection and permits, and sewer and water bills.

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