December 13, 2019

Court consolidation county topic> Officials to weigh proposal to meld two facilities in Dover-Foxcroft

DOVER-FOXCROFT — A proposal to consolidate the Piscataquis County District and Superior courts into the Superior Court facility will be discussed by county commissioners and a regional court official next month.

A letter to the commissioners read at their Tuesday meeting confirmed that the state planned to move ahead with its plan to consolidate the two courts. Upon the request of Robert Miller, regional court administrator, commissioners agreed to discuss the proposal further at their March 18 meeting.

The proposal surfaced last year when the plan to consolidate the two court offices was recommended by the Judicial Branch and approved by Gov. Angus King’s Productivity Realization Task Force. The two courts already share the services of a clerk. Lisa Richardson was the first clerk in the state in recent years to take over the responsibilities of both the District and Superior courts, according to Miller.

A similar move was made in Farmington recently. Miller said the clerk positions for the Franklin County District and Superior courts were consolidated when one of the clerks there retired. The clerk consolidation hadn’t been planned nor was it included in the recommendations of the task force. “So far, from what I hear, it’s worked out very well,” he said.

Richardson said combining court clerkships is efficient. She said combining the courts into one facility also makes sense.

“If the two places were put together, it will make it easier because you wouldn’t be shuffling [records] back and forth,” said Richardson.

Miller said court consolidations are also being considered in Machias, Caribou and Houlton.

Miller said Tuesday he was interested in discussing the use of most of the first floor on one wing in the Superior Court building for office space. This would include office space now used by the district attorney, the victim witness advocate and the Department of Licensing. If the proposal were approved by the commissioners, District Attorney R. Christopher Almy and his staff would likely relocate to their old office quarters in the District Court building.

Currently, the county receives no rent from the state for Superior Court space but does receive rent for the space it uses in the District Court building. Commissioner Eben DeWitt said Tuesday that the board would have to negotiate a rental plan if the move were to take place.

The proposal was prompted in an effort to save rent and for the comfort of the employees, Miller said. He said he’d discuss with the commissioners the need to renovate some space to accommodate the move. Three court employees now work in cramped quarters in the District Court building. The move would increase their space from 300 square feet to about 1,000 square feet, he said.

“The details in terms of the numbers of dollars are really vague at this point,” Miller said.

Miller said he believed scheduling court cases for the two courts would not pose any problems. “I think that we can work things out and accommodate the caseloads at both levels,” he said.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

comments for this post are closed

You may also like