Graphic of what the Torrington courtouse is expected to look like. ()
The state on Tuesday announced plans to build an $81 million courthouse in Torrington, a move that will replace older Superior Court buildings in Litchfield and Bantam and consolidate court operations in the Litchfield Judicial District.
The state bond commission is scheduled to vote on funding for the project on Thursday. If approved, officials plan to break ground this fall and complete the project by the end of 2015.
The current Litchfield Judicial District courthouse — a granite block structure with a Seth Thomas clock tower on the Litchfield — was completed in 1889. It’s the third oldest courthouse in the state, and court system officials and the legal community has complained for more than 30 years that its facilities are outdated and inadequate.
“Though it’s taken more than a generation,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a statement, “I’m proud that we could move this project forward and begin the necessary work of building a 21st century courthouse. By consolidating operations into one facility, we can save taxpayers time and make operations more efficient.”
The planned Torrington courthouse would measure 174,000 square feet, which is more than four times the space of the facilities it is replacing. It would eight trial courtrooms, an arraignment courtroom, four hearing rooms, and chambers for seven judges.
Plans call for it to be built on property formerly owned by The Torrington Company on Field Street in Torrington. In addtion to the Judicial District courthouse in Litchfield, it will replace the Geographic Area courthouse in Bantam, which operates in a leased facility; the Family Services Office in Litchfield; and the juvenile court in Torrington, which is also in a leased facility.
The Judicial Branch has requested more than $71 million in borrowing for the project. State officials estimate the project would create more than 1,400 construction jobs.
Judicial Branch officials said Tuesday the Litchfield court facilities are “sorely lacking in space,” which means that cases sometimes must be reassigned to courthouses elsewhere in the state. Additionally, the current facilities lack “many modern courthouse amenities,” officials said. For example, Litchfield court staffers, judges, the public and criminal defendants all use the same corridors; other courthouses have a “a private circulation system for staff and detainee movement throughout the facilities.”
Chief Court Administrator Patrick Carroll III said in a prepared statement that “no one can doubt the need for a new courthouse to serve the citizens of the Litchfield Judicial District. With the pending approval of construction funding by the Bond Commission, the district will soon be home to the Judicial Branch’s flagship courthouse, one with 21st-century security, amenities and technology.”
Judicial Branch officials said the legislation that paved the way for the new Torrington facility mandated that the court system maintain some presence in the historic Litchfield courthouse, though it has not yet been determined how the facility will be used.
State Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Lakeville, told the Register Citizen newspaper in Torrington that a new courthouse in Litchfield County is well past due. “Litchfield is beautiful, but it doesn’t meet the needs of the judicial system,” said Willis. “The courts have been divided all over the place and this is an opportunity to bring them together under one roof.”