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City threatens to sue Capital-Gazette


The Annapolis City Council voted last night to sue Capital-Gazette Newspapers if the company does not pay its $90,000 water and sewer bill by Sept. 1.

The 7-0 vote came during a closed session with city attorneys shortly before the regular meeting, officials said.

Alderwoman Ellen Moyer was absent, and Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins, a former sportswriter for the newspaper in the 2000 block of Capital Drive, abstained from the vote and the discussion, the officials said.

According to a July 15 memorandum from City Attorney Paul Goetzke to the council, Capital-Gazette Newspapers, through its Baltimore attorney Wilbert H. Sirota, refuses to pay the debt and has threatened to seek a refund of all money previously paid for water and sewer service if the city tries to sue for the $90,000 the company owes for the past two years' service.

The newspaper property was recently annexed into the city, and the company will be required to pay water and sewer at almost the same cost as before, city officials said.

In other business, the council heard a final presentation from county officials on the $55.6 million expansion of the Anne Arundel County Circuit Courthouse in downtown Annapolis.

The proposal for the 274,000-square-foot expansion was warmly received by Mr. Hopkins and the council, which will vote on it at its Aug. 8 meeting.

Officials had talked about building a new courthouse for more than 20 years. For many years, however, they considered a downtown expansion impossible because of Historic District restrictions.

Last year the county resurrected the plan for a downtown courthouse. The project cleared its biggest hurdle in January, when the Historic District Commission approved the plan.

Tonight, county officials will meet again with the commission to receive approval for the final details on landscaping, lighting and signs.

If the council approves, the county could begin asbestos removal in August and demolition of the courthouse annex building in September or October. Construction of the new building probably would not begin until the end of the year. Work would progress in phases, with completion scheduled for 1998.

"I remember years ago there was talk about a new courthouse," said Mr. Hopkins. "We owe a lot of thanks to the county executive. Before [Robert R. Neall] became county executive, it was just talk."

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