Public defender weighs moving

Need for space outweighs easy walk to courthouse

Cutting costs is a goal

State, property manager continue negotiations

Annapolis

October 23, 2003|By Stephanie Tracy | Stephanie Tracy,SUN STAFF

Employees and clients of the public defender's office for Anne Arundel County may have to allow for more travel time between the courthouse and the office if it moves to a new location next year as proposed.

The move, designed to cut costs, would relocate the Annapolis office from 60 West St. to 1700 Margaret Ave., a building west of downtown that also houses the Legion Avenue post office.

The public defender's current lease is set to expire early next year.

Because of continuing negotiations between the property manager and the state Department of General Services, information on specific savings was not available, said the department's spokesman, Dyer Bell.

The move to the Margaret Avenue building still must be approved by the state Board of Public Works.

The Department of General Services leases space at 60 West St. from Sixty West Limited Partnership and in the Margaret Avenue building from Legion Properties LLC. Both properties are managed by Loughlin Management Group. The Sun also leases space at 60 West St.

David Loughlin, president of the management company, declined to comment on the move.

The county public defender's office is staffed by 11 attorneys and six to seven support workers, said John Gunning, the acting district public defender.

State Public Defender Stephen E. Harris said the new office space would be larger and more efficiently laid out.

But access to the new location may not be as convenient as it is now.

The new site is 1.75 miles from the county's Circuit Court; the West Street building is a short walk from the courthouse.

"The disadvantage is always that no one likes to move," Harris said. "But the new space is bigger, better laid out and much more conducive to running an office."

Harris said clients should not be significantly affected by the move because the new location would be largely for administrative work.

He said accommodations may be made for clients in need of transportation from the courthouse to the office who cannot afford bus fare.

To help compensate for the increased distance, Administrative Judge Joseph P. Manck has offered space in the courthouse to the public defender's office for client meetings and as general workspace.

"I just thought it was appropriate for the public defenders to have a place to hang their hat closer to the courthouse," Manck said.

Harris also said space in the nearby Jeffery Building, 16 Francis St., has been offered as meeting space, but that site would require renovations before it could be used.

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