Carroll may get new home for court After eight years, District courthouse plans closer to reality

December 11, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. believes he might soon see a new Maryland District Court building rising next door -- after an eight-year effort.

"We'll just keep our fingers crossed," said Beck, administrative judge for the county's Circuit Court, located in the courthouse annex on Court Street.

The new District Court building would belong to the state, said Steven D. Powell, the county's director of management and budget. It also would house the parole and probation and public defender's offices.

The project would cost $4 million to $5 million and is expected to take about two years to build, Powell said.

The county owns the land for the courthouse: the Bitzel Building at 101 N. Court St., and the adjoining Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Hall, leased to a day care center, he said.

JTC The county would donate this land as a trade-off for moving the District Court from its leased space on the first floor of the county-owned courthouse annex, he said. Maryland's counties pay for the circuit courts while the state pays for district courts.

"Part of the exchange is we're buying the state's interest in the annex," said Powell. "So it will become a county-owned building, and the state will build its own District Court facility."

But the project has a glitch. Construction money was supposed to have been in next year's state budget, but is missing from a preliminary draft.

"That's our understanding, so we have to go to the state budget office and see where we are," Powell said.

This year, Beck got Carroll's District Court project back into the state hopper after a delay filing information by the county sidetracked the planning and design money that had been approved by the 1997 General Assembly.

Appointed to the bench in 1989, Beck had spent seven years as a state senator and 10 years as a delegate -- so he knew the players and the process. He wrote to the chairmen of the capital budget subcommittees for the state Senate and the House of Delegates, asking them to reinstate the money for planning and design.

"We got the planning money last year and, based on my experience in the legislature, the capital construction money usually follows the planning money," the judge said this week.

A new through street also should provide better traffic flow around the courthouses because it would run parallel to Court Street behind the annex building and the new District Court.

The county began soliciting bids Tuesday for the road project: a 760-foot extension of Ralph Street to Greenwood Avenue. Ralph Street is interrupted -- dead-ending off Route 140, then resuming to the west from Greenwood to Main Street.

Sealed bids for the road-extension project will be accepted at the County Office Building until Jan. 20. A pre-bid conference has been scheduled for Dec. 21.

For the District Court, Beck had favored the vacated Roadway Express Inc. facility at 211 Greenwood Ave. near Ralph Street. He thought its 2.6 acres would have had more room for the building and for parking.

The judge said he hopes the county will acquire the Roadway property anyway, with an eye toward future needs.

"The county feels both sites are important," Beck said.

"This area is the government complex," with the nearby County Office Building, the Carroll County Detention Center, the old jail, the Board of Education offices, the courthouse annex, and the historic courthouse.

When the District Court building is ready, its current space on the first floor of the annex will be converted to a courtroom and chambers for the Circuit Court.

Pub Date: 12/11/98

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