ALFRED — The Maine Judicial Branch has officially put out the word that it’s on the lookout for land that might be suitable for a new courthouse in York County.

The notice comes ahead of legislative action on L.D. 1528, submitted by Sen. Linda Valentino, which would fund court facilities here. The bill is currently in concept form.

On Friday, Valentino said she is awaiting results of a feasibility study designed to look at new court facilities in Waldo, Oxford and York counties. Results of the study were expected in December, and then January. Valentino said she has been told the report will now be ready in February.

Deadline for the request for information for seven buildable acres that would accommodate a building of at least 30,000 square feet is Jan. 20. The notice was first published Jan. 8.

The notice states that the Maine Judicial Branch is looking for a location that allows for reasonable access and public transportation for all county residents.

The prospect of a new York County courthouse surfaced more than a year ago, when Chief Justice Leigh Saufley convened a committee composed of legislators and stakeholders to mull over the question. Those initial meetings revealed a need for a building large enough to hold 10 to 12 courtrooms, along with staff offices and other space.

The thought at present is that a new court facility would consolidate district courts and the superior court into one building.

York County currently has three district court buildings: One each in Biddeford, Springvale and York. York County Superior Court is held at the county-owned York County Court House in Alfred.

The county-owned courthouse has one large courtroom and a much smaller one that judicial branch members say isn’t adequate space-wise or as secure as it could be, because it puts defendants and plaintiffs in criminal cases in close proximity.

It has also been said it isn’t feasible to enlarge the county owned building, which is located in a residential neighborhood and bounded by Route 111, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

York County Commissioners recently said they would be willing to part with some land near the new York County Jail, off Route 4 on Layman Way in Alfred. Locating the court building there would mean it would still be centrally located in the county, they reasoned.

A location on the same property as the jail would also mean the county would save money, as it currently transports inmates to the district courts in Biddeford, Springvale and York, and to the Alfred courthouse.

Valentino has previously said she hopes any new facility in York County is located where it is easily accessible for the people who use the courts – staff, clients, attorneys and others – and mentioned Wells or Kennebunk as possible locations.

“We need to serve the people using the building,” said Valentino, emphasizing access. However, she added. “Staying in Alfred is an option.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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