Gaithersburg, MD – A smell of drywall dust, hanging electrical wires and unfinished flooring marks the entrance to what soon will be the most up-to-date courtroom in Carroll County.
During a tour of Carroll’s newest circuit courtroom Thursday, Scott Moser, deputy director of the Department of Public Works, and several staff members showed the county’s judges and commissioners the work that has taken place since construction began in May.
‘This will be the ceremonial courtroom because it’s the largest and newest, and so totally up-to-date,’ Moser said. The county hired KANE Construction, based in Gaithersburg, to complete the overhaul.
This includes several features that have been incorporated in the county’s other courtrooms as well as other components unique to the soon-to-be completed courtroom, such as remote video conferencing for bail reviews, a video monitoring system, and ballistic-resistant panels built into the judge’s and clerk’s bench.
It will also be completely Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, including a wheelchair lift to ascend to the judge’s bench.
Construction is set to be completed sometime in December, and a dedication has been tentatively scheduled for Dec. 18. A date to actually hear cases in the new courtroom has not been set, but Moser expects that to begin shortly after Dec. 18 or in early January.
Carroll County officials take a tour of the new courtroom under construction at the Carroll County Circuit Court building in Westminster Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO / Baltimore Sun Media Group)
The total cost of the project was $2.8 million, he said, but includes more than just the courtroom. Work has also begun on a reception room, the judge’s and clerk’s offices, a holding cell for prisoners, jury deliberation room, the judge’s chambers and an elevator to transport prisoners.
In total, the county is renovating about 10,000 square feet, roughly 3,000 of which is taken up by the courtroom, said Eric Burdine, chief of the Bureau of Building Construction.
Though construction was estimated to take six months, the project has taken two years to get to this point, Moser said. The previous occupants of the space had been Land Records with the Carroll County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, which had to be moved to another part of the Carroll County Office Building in Westminster. To make room, the Child Support Enforcement division of the State’s Attorney’s Office was relocated from its home in that building to the Distillery Building in downtown Westminster.
The design of the courtroom and its necessary accompanying rooms began 18 months ago and took a year to complete, Moser said.
‘The design was based on a combination of cost [of materials] and the look the judges wanted,’ he said.
The county hired Manns Woodward Studios, an architectural design firm based in White Marsh, who finally settled on quartz countertops, carpet tile flooring and cherry wood for the paneling, Burdine said.
‘This went back and forth for some time,’ he said. ‘We were first going to use oak but decided on cherry after our contractor offered us a deal at no additional cost.’
‘This might be better than what I pictured,’ said Judge Michael Galloway during the tour. ‘This is by far the best courtroom in this building.’
Carroll chose to add another courtroom after the hiring of Judge Fred Hecker in January 2013, Galloway said. The county needed an additional judge to handle an increased number of cases, Galloway said, but the county simply didn’t have enough courtrooms to accommodate Hecker and his staff. Carroll has five circuit courtrooms in use.
‘I’m very gratified the county stepped up to the plate to meet that need,’ Galloway said.