AUGUSTA — If you’re looking for any state courts in the capital, the search is now over.
All are combined at the Capital Judicial Center, a four-story structure with spectacular views of the Kennebec and downtown, which will open for business at 8 a.m. Monday.
It houses the functions of the Augusta District Court, Kennebec County Superior Court and family court, and includes six separate courtrooms.
It also functions as an office building for the court’s Office of Information Technology and the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Last Wednesday, members of the Kennebec County Bar Association toured the 120,000-square-foot facility, guided by Justice Joseph Jabar of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Jabar, one of seven judges who will call the building home, served as the liaison for the Maine Judicial Branch and chairman of the courthouse committee.
In sharp contrast to the Augusta District Court on Memorial Circle, the new courtrooms are light and airy, feature large monitors on the wall that allow people to view materials and are fitted with padded seats on the benches for those long waits.
As more than three dozen attorneys climbed stairs, walked through courtrooms and corridors and dodged piles of boxes and filing drawers, Jabar pointed out mediation rooms, conference rooms and the more secure area with unpadded benches for the defendants in custody.
The courthouse has a secure garage area on the ground floor with parking for judges and a place designated for inmate transportation.
Entry security, required of everyone except staff, is located on the main floor, just off the circular entrance plaza and behind the existing Kennebec County Courthouse. On Wednesday, Judicial Marshal Michael A. Coty worked with court security officers from the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office to configure the screening machinery.
$57 MILLION PROJECT
Phillip Johnston, who served as owner’s representative on the site, said the overall project budget is $57 million, and that includes two related projects now underway.
One is an area for public parking and the other is improvements to the historic Kennebec County Courthouse next door.
“Parking is going to be a serious problem for the next two and a half months,” Jabar said, as an excavator prepared to raze the fourth and final structure on Perham Street just outside the courthouse and behind the jail.
Once that property is paved, likely in mid-May, it will hold 92 public parking spaces.
In the meantime, visitors to the judicial center will compete with employees for open slots. Ultimately, the building will have 18 secure parking spaces under the building plus 74 spaces outdoors gated off for employee parking and the 92 public slots.
The rehab for the 1830s courthouse includes installation of a sprinkler and fire alarm system, the finishing touches to a glass-enclosed walkway that connects the new courthouse to the existing one, plus a second bridge to provide public access to the large courtroom on the second floor of the county courthouse.
The courtroom’s ornate wooden bench will be extended to accommodate all seven justices on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court when they sit to hear appeals in Augusta.
“It’s a beautiful courtroom,” Jabar said. “It’s like a museum.”
The red-carpeted room has a fireplace in one corner, judge’s portraits on the wall, an elaborately decorated ceiling and dark wooden benches.
Consigli Corp., which built the new judicial center, remains the general contractor for the work. PDT Architects of Portland designed the judicial center.
According to Mary Ann Lynch, government and media counsel for the Maine Judicial Branch, approximately 75 staff people from four Augusta locations and seven judges who previously had offices in three locations in Augusta will all be working at the Capital Judicial Center:
A public open house is set for May 1, Law Day.