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Courthouse construction faces delay

March 18, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Courthouse construction faces delay

Construction on Washington County's new District Court could be delayed until spring 2000, a year later than planned, state officials said Wednesday.

Construction on the courthouse was to begin in April 1999, but a Maryland Department of Legislative Services analyst has suggested waiting to begin the project until fiscal year 1999-2000, said Richard Funk, District Court facilities coordinator.

The delay was suggested so the state could put off spending the money until the next budget year, Funk said.

In that case, construction couldn't begin before September 1999, and more likely would be put off until spring 2000, because of possible bad weather during the winter, Funk said.

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State Sen. Donald F. Munson said he was "guardedly optimistic" the funding will come through in fiscal year 1998-1999 so construction can start in April 1999.

If the funding is delayed a year it might have to compete with three other courthouse projects that were expected to be funded at that time, said Munson, R-Washington.

Munson said District Court Chief Judge Martha F. Rasin made a strong case to state legislators for funding the project as planned.

State legislators could decide whether to delay the funding as soon as Friday, Munson said.

The new District Court will cost just under $6 million and be built on a 29,280-square-foot lot at 36 W. Antietam St.

State officials must decide whether to demolish the existing four-story warehouse on the lot as soon as funds become available or wait until just before construction starts, Funk said.

It's possible the warehouse could be demolished before the end of the year, he said.

The new District Court would include two courtrooms and have space to add a third.

It will replace the existing District Court at 33 W. Washington St. Some court officials have said the existing quarters are too small, uncomfortable and without needed facilities that modern courthouses have.

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