The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners took an important step towards building a new circuit courthouse. The commissioners unanimously voted on February 9 to approve the purchase of 17,325 square feet of property at 204 N. Commerce Street in Centreville. This new property, combined with 25,912 square feet of property previously purchased, will provide the necessary space to build a new circuit courthouse. When combined with the adjacent county health department, it also will create almost four acres of contiguous county property. Scott MacGlashan, clerk of the Circuit Court for Queen Anne’s County, said the purchase of this land for the courthouse is a “win-win” for the county, the town of Centreville and the citizens who use the courthouse.
Erected between 1791 and 1796, the current circuit courthouse is the oldest courthouse in continuous use in Maryland. MacGlashan said this is a point of pride for the community, but it also speaks to the myriad challenges that come with working in a more than 200-year-old building. MacGlashan said the current courthouse has no jury assembly room where jurors can and not mingle with witnesses or defendants. There also are concerns about security (incarcerated defendants must be brought through the front door), privacy (attorneys and clients have little room to speak), compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and adequate room for staff and documents.
Under the proposal, the building holding the Queen Anne’s County Board of Elections and State’s Attorney’s offices on North Commerce Street would be demolished and the Mears Barbershop next door would remain standing. The old courthouse would remain in use with the Register of Wills moving in from the Liberty Building.
MacGlashan said the next step is for the county to work through the architecture and engineering process, putting out a request for proposal for a building concept and determining construction costs. Given the tough budget environment, MacGlashan said it is unknown when this step may occur. In 2008, county commissioners set aside a portion of the recordation tax (which is paid when property ownership is transferred) for the new courthouse. MacGlashan said this will give the project an ongoing revenue stream over the next few years. While its completion depends on a variety of factors, he hopes the new circuit courthouse will be complete within the next five years.