Leaders of the state’s judicial branch unveiled a plan to lawmakers in Augusta on Wednesday to build three new courthouse complexes in York, Oxford and Waldo counties that would cost taxpayers an estimated $95 million.

Ted Glessner, head administrator of the state’s courts, said in a presentation before the joint legislative Judiciary Committee that the three new court complexes would replace eight existing courthouses, some of which are aging and have safety issues.

The members of the Judiciary Committee took no immediate action on the proposal. They listened to speakers at a public hearing and are scheduled to return to for a work session on the bill on March 1.

The York County project would be the costliest of the three at an estimated $65 million. It would result in the closure of all four of the county’s existing courthouses – the superior court in Alfred and smaller district court buildings in Biddeford, Spingvale and York, Glessner said.

Justice Roland Cole, who is the chief judge of the state’s Superior Court, told lawmakers that he has had to reassign some high-profile cases from York County to Cumberland County recently because the courthouse in Alfred has only one courtroom large enough to hold a jury. He said the deficiencies in the Alfred courthouse have created a significant backlog of criminal cases there and an even greater backlog of civil cases.

The lead sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, said the site for the York County complex has yet to be determined. She also said a site selection committee in York County will work with community leaders in each municipality where the current courthouses are located to figure out what to do with the buildings.

Glessner said the Oxford County project would cost about $12.3 million. Currently, there is a superior court and district court in South Paris. If the plan is approved, officials would close the district courthouse and give the building back to the county. They would renovate the existing superior court, built in 1895, and build a 27,000-square-foot addition to that historic structure.

The Waldo County project would cost about $17 million to create a single new courthouse to replace the existing superior and district courts located in two buildings in downtown Belfast, Glessner said.

Valentino told members of the Judiciary Committee that the bill, L.D. 1528, would require no additional money in the current budget. It would require the state to begin borrowing the money from bonds in 2017 that taxpayers would begin repaying in 2018.

Glessner said the plan for the three new complexes is part of a judicial branch strategy that started in 2000 to consolidate and modernize the courts around the state. When the project started, there were 48 courts around the state. There are now 38 courthouses, he said.

The most recent court construction projects have been in Kennebec, Washington and Piscataquis counties.

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