AUBURN — Androscoggin County commissioners took their first step Wednesday toward planning a roof-to-basement update of the three-story brick courthouse at the center of the downtown.
By this summer, the three-member commission hopes to hire a consultant to analyze the 19th-century structure and forward a list of improvements.
Workers complain of small, unprotected offices and poor parking. Meanwhile, inmates from the adjacent jail sometimes shuffle the hallways to court in shackles and under guard, right past members of the public.
Commissioner Elaine Makas worried that someone might be hurt while changes are being considered , she said.
“To me, the biggest problem is security,” she said.
On Wednesday, the commissioners met with Bob Thompson, director of the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments. The session was meant to get the county ready to hire a consultant to do its analysis of the building.
Most of the meeting was spent going over past analyses, including a handicapped-accessibility study completed in 2001 and a detailed architectural reworking of the entire building.
Earlier studies advocated pulling out most of the Sheriff’s Department, including the patrol division and dispatching, and putting it in a new stand-alone building.
However, everything is preliminary, Thompson and the commissioners agreed. Money was not discussed. And meetings with department heads were needed for discussions to move forward.
A plan for renovating the building is expected to be settled next year.
Money for renovations could be earmarked in the coming year’s budget. The current budget set aside $100,000 for the building study.