Fran­chot vis­its court­house, tours with of­fi­cials

Record Observer - - Front Page - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

CENTREVILLE — On Au­gust 23, 2016, elected of­fi­cials, county em­ploy­ees and Queen Anne’s County cit­i­zens gath­ered across from the BB&T on Com­merce Street in Centreville and threw dirt in the air, gold shov­els and all, to sig­nify the be­gin­ning of the new cir­cuit court­house con­struc­tion project.

A lit­tle over a year later, many of those same peo­ple met in­side the 42,000-square-foot struc­ture to view the progress con­trac­tors had com­pleted with Mary­land Comptroller Peter Fran­chot. Un­like last time where the cer­e­mony took place on the flat­tened dirt lot, walls had now been built, wires at­tached along the ceil­ing and the rooms could be iden­ti­fied. Though work is still to be done, the al­most $20 mil­lion cap­i­tal project is be­gin­ning to take shape.

The build­ing con­struc­tion, ac­cord­ing to David Re­ma­niak, county chief of engi­neer­ing, is on sched­ule and should be com­pleted in May with an op­er­a­tional oc­cu­pancy in fall 2018.

Walk­ing through the front door of the fu­ture multi-court­room ju­di­cial build­ing, an open­ing to the sec­ond floor — sim­i­lar to the first floor at the Lib­erty Build­ing down Broad­way — lets light shine down from above. Dry­wall was up, por­ta­ble lights lit the hall­ways and tens of peo­ple fol­lowed con­trac­tors and De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works of­fi­cials through the mas­sive cap­i­tal project site.

“This was a project that’s been in the mak­ing for over a dozen years. We just didn’t want to see it go any fur­ther,” Com­mis­sioner

Jim Mo­ran said. “Fis­cally re­spon­si­ble? That takes it to an ex­treme, a court­house that’s 230 years old. We’re hop­ing this one will last the next 200 years.”

The cur­rent cir­cuit court­house, Com­mis­sioner Mark An­der­son said, has been in oper­a­tion since Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton was pres­i­dent, mak­ing it one of the old­est ac­tive court­houses in the United States.

De­spite adding debt to the county’s books, An­der­son said, it didn’t af­fect it from re­ceiv­ing a AAA bond rat­ing from rat­ing agen­cies in New York this past year. He said through a col­lec­tive af­fair of state and county govern­ment, as well as cit­i­zen vol­un­teers and good engi­neer­ing and ar­chi­tects, projects of that size can be worked in.

“It shows that your county com­mis­sion­ers are man­ag­ing fi­nances in a re­spon­si­ble and con­ser­va­tive way while still meet­ing nec­es­sary needs,” An­der­son said.

Fran­chot thanked Scott MacGlashan, long­time clerk of the cir­cuit court who is re­tir­ing, for his “won­der­ful con­tri­bu­tions to the state of Mar yland,” for his fam­ily and his “great fam­ily farm and busi­ness.” Fran­chot said there hasn’t been a bet­ter clerk of the cir­cuit court since for­mer comptroller Louis Gold­stein.

“It doesn’t sur­prise me that you’re go­ing to be able to do more with less be­cause that, frankly, is the motto of Queen Anne’s County,” Fran­chot said. “I think the lead­er­ship of the county re­flects that de­sire of or­di­nary Mary­land fam­i­lies to know that their tax dol­lars are be­ing spent care­fully.”

The two-story court­house was de­signed by Beyer Blinder Belle Ar­chi­tects with con­struc­tion done by Mul­lan Con­tract­ing Com­pany and will fea­ture two full-ser­vice court­rooms, one mas­ter’s court­room, a fam­ily ser­vices cen­ter and two de­ten­tion areas with com­pre­hen­sive se­cu­rity mea­sures.

In May, when the build­ing is sub­stan­tially com­pleted, Re­ma­niak told the com­mis­sion­ers dur­ing an Au­gust meet­ing, the state’s one-year-old Mary­land Elec­tronic Court oper­a­tion sys­tem will be in­stalled along with the Court Smart record­ing sys­tem. At that time, of­fi­cers at the sher­iff’s of­fice will re­ceive train­ing and cir­cuit court per­son­nel and op­er­a­tions will tran­si­tion over to the fur­nished site.

Come next fall, large con­struc­tion trucks and work­ers in hard­hats walk­ing through­out down­town Centreville will be gone and the two-story of­fice build­ing will be filled with the day-to-day ac­tiv­i­ties of a cir­cuit court­house.

“We’re ex­tremely pleased, ec­static,” Mo­ran said. “I can’t wait for this time next year.”

Fol­low Mike Davis on Twit­ter: @mike_k­ibay­times.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

Elected of­fi­cials from Centreville and the county, as well as project en­gi­neers and county em­ploy­ees, speak with Comptroller Peter Fran­chot on Mon­day, Sept. 11, about the progress of the cir­cuit court­house that is un­der con­struc­tion in Centreville.

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