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Bay Times and Record Observer: Franchot visits courthouse, tours with officials

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 Maryland,” 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.

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