AUGUSTA — A bill by Sen. Linda Valentino to construct a modern, consolidated courthouse in York County won the bipartisan endorsement of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
“I’m thankful for the committee’s support and look forward to this bill’s passage in the full Legislature,” said Sen. Valentino. “This vote shows what can happen when local, county and state officials get together to do the right thing for our communities. The people of York County deserve a safe, modern and efficient access to justice. This bill will get them there.”
The bill, LD 1528, “An Act to Modernize and Consolidate Court Facilities,”would provide funding for a new courthouse in York County and create a “York County Courthouse Site Selection Commission,” which will deliberate on where in York County the new courthouse should be located. It would include a bipartisan group of local lawmakers, county officials, judicial officials, law enforcement, local attorneys and designees of the governor.
The bill also provides funding for courthouse modernization in Waldo and Oxford Counties.
The York County Courthouse in Alfred is outdated and ill-equipped to deal with its current caseload. Cases are often delayed for more than a year because of a lack of suitable trial space.
The Courthouse was originally constructed in 1806, when the local communities were small and rural. Today, York County the second-most populous county in the state. Its caseload is nearly that of Cumberland County’s, the state’s most-populous, but York’s judicial facilities fall woefully behind Cumberland’s. WMTW recently toured the Courthouse, reporting that the building had “outlived its use.”
“Cramped space is an inconvenience, but exposed pipes, exposed wires, several bathrooms that are virtually impossible for a handicapped person to access, those are all problems. Orange-clad prisoners frequently share the hallways with everyone else,” reported WMTW journalist Paul Merrill. “... Maine's top judicial official, Chief Justice Leigh Saufley, said the lack of safety in old courthouses like this one terrifies her.”
The bill has the support of Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Leigh Saufley, Gov. Paul LePage, local and county-level officials in York County, and local and county-level law enforcement.
The bill now heads to the Senate.
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