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Officials warm to District Court plan

August 20, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Plans for a new Washington County District Court building are within budget and the building's appearance is getting a better reception now that the state has presented more detailed drawings of the proposed $6 million project.

Barry Miller, the Maryland Department of General Services project manager for the courthouse, said Tuesday that the project was never over budget.

Estimates were too high during one design stage because the architect was told to add a slanted roof to honor one of the last wishes of Louis L. Goldstein, the state's comptroller, who died on July 3, Miller said.

The slanted roof added $114,000 to the project, Miller said.

As a member of the state's three-member Board of Public Works, Goldstein voted on state funding for new buildings and was critical of buildings with flat roofs because he said they tend to leak.

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Some other estimates that were high have been trimmed so the project is no longer $200,000 to $220,000 over the budgeted amount of just under $6 million, Miller said.

The high pyramid roof doesn't fit in with most downtown architecture, so it has been lowered and a parapet added to mask the roof from street level, Miller said. A parapet is a wall that extends above the roof.

The building's exterior will be red brick with columns of a lighter shade of brick between every two windows, he said.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he was pleased with the design.

Some City Council members had said they didn't like the look of the planned courthouse after seeing a model of a plain-looking building. They received an artist's color rendition during a joint meeting with the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday afternoon.

Demolition of the former Brandt Cabinet Warehouse at the 36 W. Antietam St. site for the new courthouse probably will begin in June 1999, Miller said. The new courthouse is expected to be done by Sept. 30, 1999, and ready to open in October of that year, he said.

When demolition begins, the state will have to again lease parking spaces at the city's North Potomac Street parking deck for employees at the 33 W. Washington St. District Court, Miller said. They park now at the warehouse's parking lot.

There will be a few parking spaces in back of the courthouse for judges and staff members.

The approximately 27,300-square-foot, two-story courthouse will have two courtrooms with room to expand to the rear to add a third courtroom. It will face West Antietam Street where there will be a small pedestrian plaza, Miller said.

Greenery on the east and west sides of the courthouse will buffer it from parking lots on both sides and prevent a car with a bomb from getting too close, Miller said.

Security will be increased in the new courthouse, Miller said. The layout is such that witnesses waiting to testify will not see defendants before entering the courtroom, he said.

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