- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners reluctantly approved Tuesday to move forward with a state-mandated courtroom renovation project estimated at more than $490,000.
After Commissioners’ Vice President Steve Weems (R) motioned to determine a funding source and schedule a public hearing, there was a pause before any of the commissioners seconded his motion.
“None of us want to second it,” Commissioner Susan Shaw (R) said.
Commissioner Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) said the decision was forced upon the board by the appointment of a third judge last year, and the county must comply with state requirements, but he ultimately seconded Weems’ motion.
The renovations — including turning the current Commissioners’ Hearing Room/Courtroom 4 into a full-time circuit courtroom, relocating the current commissioners’ hearing room to a space on the first floor of the courthouse currently operated by the finance and budget department and improvements to the law library — are estimated at $492,932.
The commissioners voted unanimously to direct staff to determine a source of funds for the project and schedule a public hearing to receive public comment.
“It really is out of our control,” Shaw said. “But when you look at the individual numbers, they’re very reasonable.”
Shaw cited the cost for carpentry in the courtroom as an example, at an estimated cost of $5,000.
“We know in this day and age that’s not a lot of money,” she said.
“I wanted to emphasize that this is not something that we’re doing to benefit ourselves,” Shaw said. “This is required because the state appointed an additional judge.”
Shaw said the case load indicated that 1½ additional judges were needed, but the state appointed one additional judge.
County Administrator Terry Shannon said the new commissioners’ hearing room will become a courtroom, as well, but only after the commissioners leave the courthouse.
“It’s in the county’s capital plan, but it’s out a few years to build a new county office building,” Shannon said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Eventually, the courthouse will be operated only by the courts and their staff.”
In September, the commissioners received an estimate of $253,835 just to renovate the current commissioners’ hearing room. The new estimate includes the costs for relocating the hearing room and turning the existing finance and budget space into a new commissioners’ hearing room.
“It’s a phased process,” Shaw said. “It’s an expensive phased process. It’s a lot less expensive than it would have been had we not had extensive negotiations with the court system to try and find a way that maximized the operational costs for security.”
In other business, the commissioners:
• Made proclamations to recognize April as Autism Awareness Month, Month of the Young Child and Archaeology Month;
• Authorized the board president to sign an application for a National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Financial Assistance Award for $50,000 to construct a trail and boardwalk along Battle Creek at the Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm. The grant requires $50,000 in matching funds, which are identified in the proposed Capital Improvement Program budget;
• Approved a right-of-entry agreement for the Maryland State Highway Administration to replace the Bayside Road Bridge over Fishing Creek. SHA needs to access part of county-owned property along Gordon Stinnett Avenue; and
• Approved an agreement for the Administrative Office of the Courts to join the statewide jury management system.