Complaints few over courthouse project Businesses, residents 'learned to live with' construction effort

July 21, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Work on the new Anne Arundel Courthouse this summer has slowed traffic and added to a parking crunch, but has prompted few complaints as it transforms the Annapolis skyline.

Residents say the $62.3 million project at Church Circle has meant some adjustments, but they also say they have come to accept as neighbors the 120 masons, electricians and other laborers plying their trades at the site since October 1994.

"There really hasn't been that much of a problem. When there is [noise], we've been able to deal with it by keeping the windows closed and the air conditioning on," said Douglas M. Hofstedt, executive director of the Anne Arundel County Bar Association whose Franklin Street office is alongside the site.

The project has eliminated dozens of metered spaces around the site and closed two parking lots. A city-owned, $1-an-hour public lot across from the courthouse on South Street is shut temporarily and a smaller lot for judges and courthouse personnel behind the courthouse is gone forever.

"It's something we've learned to live with. We just give a warning to all our clients that parking is a problem and give them directions to the city garages," said Michael H. Bereston, a lawyer with offices in the 100 block of South St.

Occasionally, the sound of power saws, drills and cement trucks has filtered into the Circuit Court. But that, too, has been accepted with good graces.

"The reality is that it hasn't been too bad," said Barbara A. Light, a trial lawyer with offices on Cathedral Street.

County officials say that the project was designed to minimize noise and that the worst of the din may be over.

"The noisiest part, we're done with," said John D. Weiler Jr., the county's project manager.

Neighbors kept informed

Jerome Klasmeier, Anne Arundel County director of Central Services, said he also tried to keep neighbors informed with periodic newsletters about potential parking or noise problems.

Klasmeier said that the project is about 20 days behind schedule because of the harsh winter, but that the south side of the building is still scheduled to open in March.

He said a 20-day lag is not unusual for a 3 1/2 -year project. He said the 274,000-square-foot building should be completed by August the target date.

"I expect we'll be able to recover that lost time before we finish," Klasmeier said.

He said work is being completed in three phases.

When the current construction is completed in March, courthouse personnel will be moved into the new structure as the final step in the first phase.

Second phase

The section of the courthouse on South Street -- a two-story addition built in 1952 that houses most of the offices and courtrooms -- will then be demolished and replaced in the second phase, he said.

Once replacement work begins, the county will advertise for bids to begin the final step of restoring the original 1824 courthouse that faces Church Circle, he said.

The new building will have 10 courtrooms, four hearing rooms, a red-brick exterior and a skylight over the center of the structure.

Because of the hilly location, the courthouse will be two stories at the Church Circle entrance and five stories at the Cathedral Street side, four above ground and a basement with 35 parking spaces. The spaces will be reserved for judges, their staffs, courthouse officials and sheriff's security vans.

$32.4 million contract

Klasmeier said the first and second phases are being completed by C.E.R. Inc., a Baltimore firm awarded a $32.4 million contract to serve as general contractor.

The first series of contracts for furniture, equipment, installation of cable telephone lines and audio visual equipment for courtrooms is to be awarded in the next two months, he said. Total cost for the furniture and equipment is estimated at $4.1 million.

Prison labor

Klasmeier said $54 million of the $62.3 million projected cost has been approved by the County Council.

He said the project is designed to save money where possible.

For example, state prison inmates at the Eastern Correctional Institute in Westover, Somerset County, who participate in a rehabilitation program, will recondition 30 of the 65 benches in the existing courthouse, he said. They also will restore dozens of courthouse chairs and tables.

"We plan to recycle as much of the existing furniture as possible," Klasmeier said.

Pub Date: 7/21/96

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