AUGUSTA — Parking, pile-driving, and construction-related traffic will pose problems soon for court personnel.

It might require schedule or location changes to accommodate the business of Kennebec County Superior Court and other county court work for the next three years.

At the end of that time, however, a new four-story courthouse will consolidate a number of judicial branch functions currently spread throughout the capital. The building is designed to be user-friendly and handicapped-accessible and will link to the existing historic granite-block building.

Site work began earlier this month. A judge, the project manager and the court construction overseer roughed out the construction schedule and its effect at a meeting last week for judges, lawyers, clerks and others who work in the county-owned courthouse at Winthrop and State streets.

At the meeting, Superior Court Chief Justice Thomas Humphrey said vibration and noise from construction will affect both operational and administrative functions of clerks, the district attorney’s office, county personnel and the sheriff’s office, which also provides court security.

“The delivery of justice will clearly be impacted during those high-noise periods,” he said.

A projected date for building occupancy is spring 2015.

“The impact, it seems to me, is obvious,” Humphrey said. “Starting immediately and for the next three years, there will be an impact on parking. We’re working on it, but opportunities for a good solution are not really present.”

“What are we going to do with our jurors when 100 of them show up?” attorney William Baghdoyan asked.

Kennebec County Administrator Bob Devlin told him, “The neighborhood absorbs a lot of parking on the 100-juror day. They fill everything up and then move out into the neighborhood.”

Humphrey said there is a possibility of shuttling jurors in from satellite locations, but the aim is to try to avoid adding costs.

He said efforts will be made to coordinate scheduling with the judges who typically sit at the court, as well as others who work in the building.

“We’re hoping to enlist communication and cooperation from all your constituents,” Humphrey said. “The need for justice, like waves coming into the shore, is not going to stop.”

Early work begins

Chris Brown, project manager for Consigli Construction Co. Inc., said initial work isolates the construction site from surrounding buildings and installs all utility lines underground.

“I wouldn’t expect too much disturbance from it,” he said.

After Sept. 17, however, the noise level rises with the scheduled demolition of the former Crisis & Counseling Centers building as well as the Augusta Spiritualist Church, plus 10 or so days of pile-driving to shore up the steep slope.

“They’re driving 40-foot nails into the surface,” Brown said. “They’re pile-driving to hold back the soil. There will be a consistent bang every four seconds for a week and a half.”

That prospect started a buzz among the dozens of meeting attendees sitting on the benches in the back of the courtroom.

The schedule for Kennebec County Superior Court, posted on the Maine Judicial Branch website, shows three days of grand jury sessions that week as well civil and criminal trial days. The following week’s schedule lists more trial days as well as a day for initial appearances and status conferences, which can bring scores of defendants and attorneys to the courthouse.

“We will have to work closely with you folks,” said Philip Johnston, owner’s project manager for the Augusta Court Facility. “Consigli can’t stop for two or three or four days. They can stop for an hour or hour and a half. We want to find out really quickly when the conflicts are.”

Those conflicts could be with juror selection or trial and just about any proceeding in courtrooms in which testimony and arguments can be difficult to hear even without competition from construction.

Once demolition is completed — projected to be Oct. 25 — then digging starts for foundations, including retaining walls and other structures.

“We’re digging a pretty big hole down here,” Brown said, pointing to a colorful map. The foundations will be 20 feet below the level of Perham Street, with the excess material used to fill in a parking lot across Court Street from the new building.

The noise level will rise again December to early February, when pile-driving resumes. About 260 45-foot piles must be driven into the ground for the building footprint.

“That is probably going to be the biggest disruption for the entire job,” Brown said. “We’re trying to give everyone a worst-case scenario as to what people can expect. It’s going to be loud and probably going to be annoying. Bear with us.”

Schedules for the court are not posted for that time.

Project peak

Johnston said a goal is to have the roof on by November or December 2013 so inside work can begin. Any work stoppage early will affect later work adversely, he said.

Now, Perham Street is blocked between Winthrop and Court streets. On Friday, Steve McGee Construction trucks hauled off material dug out of the middle of Court Street, and a truck from Don’s Electric in Monmouth blocked the intersection with State Street as utility piping was installed.

Loose gravel and dirt filled sections of Perham Street where large trenches lay open earlier in the week.

The 2 1/2-acre site is site is tight, and noise and construction work will affect those living in nearby houses.

Consigli is buying the 16 Winthrop St. building, headquarters of the Maine Democratic Party, which is below the courthouse property, to use as a construction headquarters, Brown said.

“The deal is in place,” said Lizzy Reinholt, communications director for the Maine Democrats. “We haven’t had the closing yet.”

She said the Democratic offices are set to move next month to another site in Augusta, somewhat closer to the State House.

Consigli will allow contractors to use space in the two-story building rather than have them bring work trailers on site. Once the courthouse project is completed, Brown said, Consigli plans to sell the building.

Brown also said Consigli hopes to use the former Kennebec Valley YMCA property at Winthrop and State streets for construction personnel parking and equipment.

Brown said at the project’s peak, probably spring 2014, there will be 150 construction workers on the site. He promised real-time schedules to keep court personnel informed about noise levels and project activities.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]


* August-September: Site work and demolition of former Crisis & Counseling Centers & Augusta Spiritualist Church

* November-December 2013: Roof in place

* Spring 2015: Project completion

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