Office shuffle underway at Androscoggin County courthouse

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AUBURN — Androscoggin County is shuffling offices in its Auburn courthouse, consolidating the storage of deeds while making space for an expanded county commission and its first dedicated probate courtroom.

On Monday, workers painted inside a Registry of Deeds computer room and an adjacent space that had floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with volumes of bound deeds.

Under the remodeling, the first room will become the probate judge’s chambers. The adjoining room will be his courtroom.

“It will be a real courtroom,” County Clerk Patricia Fournier said, standing on the platform where Judge Michael Dubois will reside as he hears cases ranging from estate squabbles to custody fights and adoptions.

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The work, costing more than $200,000, has been building for months.

It began with $81,000 in steel reinforcements to the floors beneath the Registry of Deeds, needed before new compact shelving could be installed in two rooms. The shelving sits on rollers, similar to the stacks in many college libraries.

“You’re utilizing the same space but you’re doing so much more with it,” Fournier said.

Files that were once placed in several rooms — including the cells of the abandoned Depression-era county jail in the courthouse’s second floor — are now in one of the two rooms.

And though the deeds have all been scanned and placed online, the physical copies remain.

“This will definitely be more accessible,” Registrar of Deeds Tina Chouinard said. “You still have the older generation that likes to look at the paper.”

The work on the Registry of Deeds, totaling more than $155,000, will be covered by surcharges. The remaining $50,000 of work — including flooring, painting and construction for the Registry of Probate — is being paid with taxpayer dollars.

The work is expected to finish in no more than two months, Fournier said.

When it’s done, workers will immediately begin work on expanding the current space now shared by the probate court and the county commission.

Plans call for one wall to be demolished and new furniture to be installed that will accommodate the new commission, which will expand in January from three to seven commissioners.

For now, plans call for shifting the tables in the longtime meeting room and, when necessary, moving to the law library for meetings.

Though work on that part of the project has yet to be contracted, Fournier expected it to be complete in the spring.

dhartill@sunjournal.com

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