BELFAST, Maine — Crews began tearing down a former downtown garage Tuesday, the first step in clearing the way for a $17 million courthouse to serve Waldo County.
An excavator began picking away at the former Duval Auto Service Garage at the intersection of Church and Market streets on Tuesday, dropping scrap metal into a dump truck to be hauled off site. The garage will be the first of three buildings to come down over the next few weeks. The others are a small concrete office building formerly used by an oil company and a home that dates back 190 years.
The courthouse will bring Belfast District Court and Waldo County Superior Court under the same roof.
The judicial branch has been pushing to consolidate courts and replace aging courthouse buildings in counties across the state in an effort to run them more efficiently and cut costs long term for such expenses as heat and electricity. In recent years, the state has modernized courts in Bangor, Augusta, Houlton, Dover-Foxcroft and Machias.
The existing court buildings are owned by the county, which plans to expand its use of those structures to ease overcrowding in its offices.
Some city officials hoped someone would step up to save the historic house by moving it to another site. City Councilor Mike Hurley went as far as to request a quote for the cost of such a move, which came out to about $62,000. Several people expressed some interest, but none took the financial leap to move the building in time for the state to agree to allow a move.
The 37,000-square-foot courthouse will have about 40 parking spaces, plus about 20 more reserved for employees in a separate lot. The Superior Court doesn’t have any dedicated parking and the District Court has just a few spaces on the street out front, leaving the bulk of jurors, lawyers and visitors to find on street parking or to park in one of a few public lots scattered around downtown.
The building will have a sally port entrance so people in custody arriving for court dates can be driven in and walked directly upstairs to the courtroom without encountering any members of the public or jurors.
Once the land is cleared, the site will be prepared for construction. The state hopes the building will be finished by next summer.
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