AUGUSTA, Maine — A $95 million proposal, if approved by the Legislature, would allow new courthouses in Waldo and York counties to be constructed and fund an addition to the Oxford County Courthouse.
The new courthouses in Belfast and Alfred are estimated to cost about $17 million and $65 million, respectively. The renovation in South Paris is estimated to cost about $12.3 million.
Sites for the new courthouses have not been selected, according to Mary Ann Lynch, spokeswoman for the court system. It is not possible to expand the buildings in Alfred or Belfast, she said.
State law requires that Superior Courts be located in county seats. If suitable land were not available in Alfred or Belfast, the Legislature would have to pass a bill to allow construction in a different municipality.
These projects are the latest advocated for by Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley as part of efforts to modernize and increase security in the state’s aging courthouses, most of which were built in the 19th century. The most recent construction included an addition to the Washington County Courthouse in Machias, completed last summer at a cost of $8.3 million, and the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta, completed in December 2014 at a cost of $55 million.
The Judiciary Committee heard testimony Wednesday on LD 1528 that, if passed, would increase the maximum amount of securities that may be issued by the Maine Governmental Facilities for the judicial branch. Committee members have not yet voted on the bill. A work session is set for Tuesday.
The judicial branch’s debt service is $10.6 million, according to Lynch.
“If the legislation is enacted as proposed, and if we begin the projects on the proposed time schedules, we are conservatively estimating additional debt service of $2 million in fiscal year 2018, $5.4 million in fiscal year 2019, and will peak at $7 million in fiscal year 2020,” Lynch said earlier this week in an email. “We plan to issue three series of 20-year bonds, but given our track record of using courthouses for well over 100 years in many cases, we anticipate the taxpayers will benefit for decades to come.”
The proposal for Waldo County appears to be furthest along, according to information provided by Lynch. It includes a schematic design by Winton Scott Architects of Portland that show a two-story building with a basement on a 1.75-acre site. The basement would include holding cells, storage and the mechanicals for the building with a sallyport for a van to bring incarcerated prisons to court.
The first floor would house the clerk’s office, conference room, working space for district attorneys, an office for a judge and a courtroom with seating for more than 100 people and a jury room. Two courtrooms, one designed for family matters, conference rooms, offices for two judges and an attorneys’ room are on the second floor. The entrance to the building would include room for entry screening.
Similar schematic drawings have not been done for the proposed facilities in York or Cumberland counties.
The new facility in York County would combine district courts in Biddeford, Springvale and York with the Superior Court in Alfred. The proposed facility would be 133,000 square feet with 12 courtrooms. The nearly 17,500 square-foot addition proposed in Oxford County would include three new courtrooms, conference rooms and entry screening.
If approved as proposed the earliest completion dates would be: July 2018 for the Waldo County facility; December 2020 for the York County facility and June 2019 for the Oxford County renovation.