Renovations to historic Penobscot County Courthouse 95 percent complete

Penobscot County Commissioners hold a meeting in the former second floor courtroom of the Penobscot County Courthouse on Tuesday, August 2, 2011. Once a venue for hearings, the room has been renovated and is now being used for county commissioner meetings.
Kate Collins | BDN
Penobscot County Commissioners hold a meeting in the former second floor courtroom of the Penobscot County Courthouse on Tuesday, August 2, 2011. Once a venue for hearings, the room has been renovated and is now being used for county commissioner meetings.
By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Posted Aug. 02, 2011, at 8:19 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Renovations to the historic Penobscot County Courthouse are expected to be completed by the end of the month after almost 18 months of work at the Hammond Street campus.

The total cost of repairs to the former Bangor District Court building, the historic courthouse formerly used by the Penobscot County Superior Court, the annex formerly used by the District Attorney’s Office, and renovations to allow videoconferencing from the Penobscot County Jail to the new judicial center is estimated to be about $750,000, according to County Administrator William Collins.

“The renovations are 95 percent complete,” he said Tuesday.

The opportunity to modernize presented itself when the courts system decided to combine Bangor District Court and the Superior Court in the Penobscot Judicial Center on a lot in downtown Bangor between Exchange Street and the Kenduskeag Stream. The Penobscot Judicial Center opened in November 2009.

The judiciary determined that it was not feasible to build an addition onto the courthouse on Hammond Street that would combine the District and Superior court operations because of the topography and limited size and shape of the lot.

“The court system used that space for 100 years,” Commissioner Peter Baldacci of Bangor said Tuesday of the need for the renovations. “During that time we were not able to do major repairs. We wanted to use this opportunity to get done everything we needed to do that will be beneficial for years to come.”

As the new courthouse was being build, county commissioners sought a longtime tenant for the former District Court building on Hammond Street to replace income lost when the courts consolidated. The U.S. Postal Service and the Red Cross moved into what was once a grocery story in November 2010.

A $475,800 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy has paid for the bulk of the renovations to what once housed the Superior Court. New energy-efficient windows, lights, floors, carpeting and central air conditioning have been installed throughout the building.

In April, the District Attorney’s Office moved from the annex between the courthouse and the jail to the second floor of the courthouse where the clerks’ office and judges’ chambers were located. The second-floor courtroom now is where the county commissioners meet each Tuesday morning. A plaque on the door identifies the room as the “Court of Commissioners.” Collins’ office has been moved from the first floor, where county administrative offices, the Probate Court and the Registry of Deeds are located, to the second.

The third-floor courtroom is being used for training and meeting space, Collins said.

Renovations to the annex — to be used as administrative offices for the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office — and a new roof on the jail are all that need to be done to complete the project, Collins said.

Commissioners have not decided whether to rename the building that has been known for more than a century as the Penobscot County Courthouse.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/08/02/news/bangor/renovations-to-historic-penobscot-county-courthouse-95-percent-complete/ printed on August 27, 2014