BIDDEFORD, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Maine lawmakers will take up a bill that would halt all work on a new $65 million court house project in Biddeford.
The site was selected last year for a new facility that will consolidate court houses from four communities into one. York County officials argue it won’t realize the efficiencies the state wants and will increase the burden on their taxpayers. They’re pushing for the project to be halted until their concerns are addressed.
“All the essential services from our perspective are right here. We can’t simply pick up and move to Biddeford without going through a very long and complicated process”, said County Manager Greg Zinser.
Zinser says those added costs would come from moving the district attorney’s office out of the Alfred court house and transporting inmates from the jail in Alfred up to Biddeford.
A bill would halt the project from moving forward until the county’s concerns are met. Its sponsor says the bill has a lot of support from other York County legislators.
“A number of legislators realize the impact this is going to have on the county and they have come forth and are supporting this bill”, said Sen. David Woodsome (R) York.
Officials in the Maine Judicial Branch strongly disagree with the county’s stance. Spokesperson Mary Ann Lynch says “We had a fair, open, transparent process. We’re disappointed they put this bill in.”
Lynch says no district attorney in Maine gets free space in state courthouses and the county has been offered a very fair rental agreement. She says the costs of transporting inmates will be offset by enhanced security measures in the new building and those inmates will be taken to only one court instead of four different ones like they are now.
Biddeford officials, who already sold the land to the state and welcome the $65 million project, also oppose the bill.
“It’s pretty tough to change the rules in the middle of the game to say you’ve got to go back. I think we’re too far down the road at this juncture”, said Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant.
Members of the Judiciary Committee take up the bill on Tuesday.