January 19, 2018
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Piscataquis officials consider hiring clerk to keep watch on $5M courthouse project

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Piscataquis County commissioners are contemplating hiring a clerk of the works to look after the county’s interests when the state begins its planned $5 million county courthouse renovation.

The county’s expected cost for such a service — which would cover the design, bidding and construction phases — is estimated at $20,000 to $25,000.

“I hate to spend 20 grand on anything that is not necessary, but 20 grand for a $5 million project is pretty small,” Commissioner Tom Lizotte said Tuesday, adding that it would protect the county’s interests.

The state, which has a 20-year renewable lease from the county for space in the Superior Court building, plans to consolidate the District Court and its associated offices into the brick courthouse. Currently, the District Court operates from the former Peakes House, and Superior Court functions are held in the brick courthouse.

County officials have pushed since 1987 for the state to address the conditions in the District Court building, which is overcrowded on court days and poses a security risk by having witnesses and victims seated in proximity to defendants in the small courtroom.

Based on that need, the Legislature approved $5 million for the renovation of the Superior Court building to include the District Court.

North Peak Architecture of Presque Isle has been selected by the state to do the architectural drawings for the project. A meeting is expected within the next couple of weeks to begin the work.

Since the project is considered a complicated one, the commissioners discussed the need for an architect to oversee the county’s interests. It was noted that Penobscot County, which had no one watching the construction of its new building on the county’s behalf, was left with some space issues, according to County Manager Marilyn Tourtelotte.

Tourtelotte was asked to check with officials in Aroostook County, where a similar project was completed, to see if that county hired a clerk of the works. The commissioners also plan to invite Vicki Wolfertz of Monson, a licensed architect, who already has submitted a proposal for the work, to the next meeting. If the commissioners do decide to hire a clerk of the works, they agreed, bids should be solicited for the service.

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