Judge says courtrooms are more important than school offices

March 15, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

The need for expanded courtrooms and office space is more important than a new Board of Education central administrative office, Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. told Carroll's county commissioners yesterday.

Judge Beck said he needs space so badly that he will research state law to determine whether he could take over school board space in the Courthouse Annex at 55 N. Court St.

During an afternoon budget session, Judge Beck, the administrative judge of the Carroll Circuit Court, told the commissioners he was upset that they have delayed plans to move school board offices by September.

When the Courthouse Annex was completed in the late 1970s, the understanding was that the Circuit Court would get the space when it was needed, Judge Beck said.

"We need another judge today, and we don't have space for another judge," he said.

He also was angry that he read about the delay in local newspapers.

"How can I execute [plans] when you're doing end runs around me?" he asked the commissioners. "Why should I waste my time if you're going to do what you want to do despite my needs?"

The judge said he could understand if his plans had to be delayed because the county needed to build a new school. But, he said, "We're talking about housing a bunch of bureaucrats."

The commissioners originally told Judge Beck that the school board offices would be moved by September to two portable buildings on Gist Road. But late last fall, the commissioners began looking at the former Telemecanique Inc. building on Bethel Road in Reese as an alternative.

They discovered that a well at the industrial site is contaminated with volatile organic compounds and that the site probably would have to be cleaned up before it could be used. They are now studying the environmental problems, said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell defended the commissioners' efforts to look for a permanent site for Board of Education offices. He said the commissioners have a responsibility to look at an alternative that might be better than portable units.

He apologized to Judge Beck because the judge had not been told personally about the delays, but said no decision has been made on where to relocate the school board offices. He also asked Judge Beck to understand that the commissioners have been working under tight budget constraints for the past three years because of state budget cuts.

"Our task isn't any easier than yours," Mr. Dell said.

"I understand everything you told me, and I'm not happy with it," Judge Beck said.

The judge said he will research "the visitorial powers of the court" in Maryland common law to figure out whether the court's needs would take precedence over the school board's in this case.

He also said he would like the state to construct a multiservice building at Court Street and Greenwood Avenue to house state agencies related to the courts.

Currently, the county's child care center, in a former church, and Bitzel and Associates Inc. are located at that corner.

"I would envision a high-rise" with four stories and a parking garage, Judge Beck said.

The building would house the District Court and offices for Juvenile Services, Parole and Probation, the public defender, Department of Social Services and other agencies, he said.

The Circuit Court would remain in the courthouse and Courthouse Annex, he said.

Judge Beck said he has talked to members of the Carroll General Assembly delegation about pushing for such a project next year.

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