AUGUSTA — The removal of heavy granite blocks from the exterior of the historic Kennebec County Courthouse last week literally opened the floodgates.

The granite was removed to allow completion of a span connecting the courthouse with a new court building being erected just feet away.

Rainwater from Monday’s storm flowed from the roof of the new bridge onto the first floor of the courthouse, running down the inside of the large window and soaking the red carpet that lines the corridor to the Probate Court offices and courtroom.

“During the worst of the storm, it was raining down inside the window casing,” said Kennebec County Administrator Robert Devlin on Tuesday as he inspected the ornate wood frame and saw the yellow spots of water damage on the white plaster wall next to it. “As soon as we discovered it, they sent a crew up there to address it, and they put some tarps on the roof.”

By Tuesday afternoon, new concrete covered the four-inch space that had been exposed when the granite blocks and bricks behind it were removed and allowed the water in.

“We got a lot of rain, three inches of rain,” said Philip Johnston, project manager for the new Augusta court building. “You open up a building and stuff happens.”

One worker in a Consigli Construction Co. hardhat, pointing to the curing concrete, said, “It won’t happen again.”

Consigli Superintendent, Steve McPherson, said the bridge roof is to be finished by the end of next week and blocked off.

That will make the small courtroom on the second floor of the Kennebec County building available for hearings. Currently that courtroom is off-limits, requiring all proceedings to be in the large courtroom.

The bridge — which will have a secure side for judges and court employees and a side for the public — links the courthouse with the new Capital Judicial Center that is to open to the public early next year.

Once the new courthouse opens, that bridge, which is temporarily cordoned off at each end by walls of plastic, will be extended through a hallway and across a courtyard to allow the public to access the large courtroom in the original 1830 courthouse at State and Winthrop streets. That and other building renovation work should take about six months, McPherson said.

The construction of the four-story judicial center between Winthrop and Court streets, which began in Augusta in 2012, has run on time and on budget, and on Tuesday workers were laying carpet on the fourth floor in several offices and conference rooms, which looked almost ready for occupancy. Bathroom fixtures were in place and some kitchen sinks were installed in future break rooms.

Four elevators — one for employees, one for inmates and two for the public — are installed but have yet to begin working, but some of the heating/ventilation units were operating, cooling rooms where dark wainscoting was already in place.

The court building will have six courtrooms; four small and two large enough to seat up to 150 people in the public area, and all have a form of natural light, a feature lacking currently in both courtrooms in Augusta District Court.

A fourth-floor conference room for the justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court has an almost panoramic view of the city, encompassing the State House dome, the Kennebec River, Old Fort Western, Memorial Bridge, the Arsenal and the east campus of state offices on the former Augusta Mental Health Institute grounds.

The building boasts mediation rooms with attached small conference rooms, a room for attorneys who are working there all day.

“It’ll be a busy facility because it’s a lot more secure,” Johnston said.

The new building will have a secure side where inmates can speak to their attorneys and enter courtrooms without having to come through public areas, and all visitors to the new building will have to pass through entry screening.

In the meantime, the 100-115 workers on site climbed the stairs and used lifts outside. Much of the glass and exterior facade looks finished on the Winthrop Street side, but many openings await glass on the Court Street side, including the large expanses that frame two sides of the vestibule.

Contractors were testing for water and air infiltration on sections of the windows and curtain walls. Other workers finished installing ceiling tiles and fished cables under flooring.

Outside, the concrete steps and the retaining walls leading to the entrance await four-inch granite facing from a Maine quarry.

“We had wanted to use Hallowell granite, but that quarry’s not open,” Johnston said, “and reopening it is cost prohibitive.”

Parking is still to be resolved. About 100 slots are available now either in the 19 secure spaces in the lower level garage or in terraced lots. The court system is working in conjunction with the city and hoping to create about 90 more spaces along Perham Street behind the county jail. Demolition of three of four houses there has been delayed until at least Aug. 22 under a city ordinance. Negotiations have been underway for a fourth property, a six-unit apartment house.

Johnston said $2 million of the $57 million to be spent on the 120,000-square-foot Capital Judicial Center will go into renovating the county building, including installation of a fire and sprinkler system and refurbishing of the large courtroom and some judicial chambers as well as public bathrooms. Devlin said the county will spend additional money to repoint sections of the thick granite walls and to install new windows, among other improvements.

The new judicial center will incorporate Augusta District Court as well as the Family Division, the Administrative Office of the Courts housed at 65 and 24 Stone St.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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