District Court building project may be delayed

March 31, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

ANNAPOLIS - Legislative maneuvering could delay for at least several months construction of a new Washington County District Court building in downtown Hagerstown, lawmakers said Tuesday.

Construction was scheduled to begin a year from now.

Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, said House of Delegates leaders were considering setting aside only about $900,000 in the budget year that begins July 1 for the nearly $6 million project.

That would be enough for demolition and site preparation, but the state would need to come up with the bulk of the project funds in future budgets, she said.

Hecht, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said several lawmakers have noted that most of the $5.3 million proposed for the project in Gov. Parris N. Glendening's 1998-99 capital budget doesn't need to be spent until the following budget year, and could be used on other projects in the meantime.


"We've got this pot of money that's going to be sitting around," she said.

The Appropriations Committee could approve the plan for District Court this week.

The Senate's version of the capital budget includes the $5.3 million for the District Court project next year. That means the differences between the two versions might have to be worked out in a conference committee.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said he has spoken to Senate conference committee representatives who have assured him they will "hold tight" to their position on the District Court construction.

Munson, a member of the influential Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, previously had fought off a legislative analyst's recommendation that the project be delayed until the budget year that begins July 1, 1999.

Munson said in that case construction couldn't begin before September 1999, and more likely would be delayed until spring 2000 because of the possiblity of bad weather.

He said the latest House proposal poses similar problems because even though the demolition work could begin next year, the state would be unable to hire a contractor to begin construction until July 1, 1999.

"No contractor is going to bid on a courthouse based on the fact that the money might be coming, and I can't blame them," Munson said.

Hecht said the solution might be to get supplemental appropriations or other sources of funding from the governor that would enable construction to begin before July 1, 1999. The bulk of the state money would still kick in after that date, she said.

The new District Court is to be built on a 29,280-square-foot lot at 36 W. Antietam St. It will include two courtrooms and have space to add a third.

It will replace the existing District Court building at 33 W. Washington St.

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