Earth is turned for new Catonsville district courthouse

Maryland's Department of General Services marked the start of construction on a Catonsville District Courthouse with a groundbreaking ceremony Monday.

The $54.5 million project, which includes a 425-car parking garage, is expected to open in two years.

The 130,000-square-foot facility, on 5.9 acres in the Rolling Crossroads Professional Park, will have eight courtrooms, more than double the existing courthouse. .

The deal made to acquire the land had been discussed since at least 2002.

A $2.8 million agreement between the state and Whalen Properties, a Catonsville developer, to relocate the courthouse was approved by the Board of Public Works and finalized in May 2011, according to state officials. The purchase was made with $2.5 million in state funding allocated in 2007 and $350,000 in state funding allocated in 2009.

The project, which at one point was on target to be completed by 2015, had been delayed because of budget shortfalls.

"Not only will the Catonsville District Court add much needed courtrooms in Baltimore County, allowing more cases to be heard, but the facility also will have the capacity to house services that increase access to justice, assuring court visitors the highest level of service," Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera said in a statement announcing the groundbreaking.

The current courthouse, at Wilkens and Walker avenues, opened in 1982. County law requires that the building be in the 21228 ZIP code. Baltimore County has two other district court buildings, one in the county seat of Towson and the other in Essex.

Baltimore County District Court Administrative Judge Dorothy Wilson said in a statement the county District Court has one judge for every 63,000 residents and it receives about 300,000 case filings per year.

The court hears a range of civil, misdemeanor and felony cases, including traffic and boating violations, domestic violence incidents, peace order petitions, landlord-tenant disputes and small claims cases.

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