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$31,000 fence makes good neighbor for building


Only in Annapolis would a construction-site fence turn into an historic preservation issue.

Work is beginning on Anne Arundel County's new courthouse in downtown Annapolis, but don't look for a standard-issue chain-link fence. As part of the construction approval, Annapolis' powerful Historic District Commission asked for a fence more in keeping with the neighborhood. They got historic pictures -- at a cost of $31,000.

"To look at the typical chain-link type of fence was something that the [commission] wasn't fond of," said Jerome W. Klasmeier, the county's central services officer. "Therefore, we have what I'll call a nontraditional project fence."

The price, Mr. Klasmeier pointed out, is just a small part of the $62.3 million courthouse project. It works out to 41 cents per panel per day over the life of the project, he said, and the panels can be reused at other construction sites.

The pictures on the 144 aluminum panels will show historic Annapolis street and courthouse scenes, along with a time line. On the bottom will be a black and blue sailboat motif. Crews from Annapolis SignWorks, which made the 4-foot-by-8-foot panels, began installing them along South, Franklin and Cathedral streets over the weekend.

Anne Arundel officials commissioned the fence as one of many conditions for winning historic commission approval for the new courthouse. The commission must approve all building projects in the Historic District, a neighborhood that dates back to colonial times.

Paul Shaplin, who owns the sign business, said he has gotten positive comments from passers-by. "Anything is better than a blank wall," said Catherine Piper, who lives across South Street from the site.

Others weren't so sure.

"As fences go, it's not a bad-looking fence," said Tom Fullerton, an engineer whose office looks out at the fence. But "the bottom line is the money could have been better spent on something in the county."

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