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New courthouse seen as 'smart'

November 22, 2000

New courthouse seen as 'smart'



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

As Gov. Parris Glendening officially dedicated the J. Louis Boublitz District Court Building in downtown Hagerstown Tuesday, he offered a glimpse of the city's future.

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Glendening said he wants the state to help pay for improvements such as lighting and sidewalks in downtown Hagerstown and in other urban centers across Maryland.

A $4.4 million proposal by local business leaders calls for adding parking spaces, widening alleys and making downtown more pedestrian-friendly around the planned University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center.

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Hagerstown city officials have proposed another $1.3 million in improvements around the new courthouse.

Glendening couldn't say how much money the state would contribute to those efforts.

He said he's working with legislative leaders to make what he calls urban parks the third leg of his Smart Growth initiative to curb sprawl.

Glendening has received nationwide recognition for the first two prongs of his Smart Growth plan - preserving agricultural land and keeping public buildings in population centers.

The new District Court building on Antietam Street is a perfect example because it's downtown next to existing support services, he said.

"This is, in fact, Smart Growth in action. It saves the taxpayers the cost of roads and other infrastructure," Glendening said. "We stop this trend of plowing over every dairy farm and open space we have."

Another example of Smart Growth is the University System of Maryland center, which will be in the former Baldwin House complex on West Washington Street, he said.

Glendening said the budget he'll present to the Maryland General Assembly in January will emphasize higher education and Smart Growth.

"The Hagerstown complex is there at exactly the right time," he said.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, chairman of the Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, said he was encouraged by Glendening's remarks.

Glendening got a warm reception from local elected officials and business leaders at the Frostburg University Center on West Washington Street just before the dedication ceremony.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II walked Glendening to the new courthouse via an alley that under the city's plan would become a bricked sidewalk with improved lighting.

Inside the new $3.9 million courthouse, an overflow crowd of about 150 people witnessed the dedication. One courtroom was standing room only and in another about 25 people watched via closed-circuit television.

"Hagerstown's future and Washington County's future is very bright, not just because of this one building, but because of the community spirit," Glendening said.

There were speakers from all three branches of government. They included House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany; Martha F. Rasin, chief judge of the District Court of Maryland; and Robert M. Bell, chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals.

"You are looking at the product of good government," Rasin said.

The courthouse was named after the late Judge J. Louis Boublitz, one of two judges who served on the original District Court bench in Hagerstown when it was created in 1971.

The first district court sessions were held in Hagerstown City Hall. Four years later, the court was moved to its last home on West Washington Street, a former Montgomery Ward store.

Boublitz has been described as "firm and fair" and "a pillar of the judicial community," Rasin said. He retired in 1982 at the age of 68 and died in 1997 at the age of 83.

The judge's widow, Ethel Boublitz, and 10 nieces and nephews from his hometown of Baltimore attended the ceremony.

"This is such a great day. Lou would be overwhelmed at this honor," Ethel Boublitz said.

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