Officials Break Ground on $81.4M Litchfield County Courthouse Complex in Torrington [Register Citizen]

August 13, 2014

By ESTEBAN L. HERNANDEZ | Register Citizen

TORRINGTON—One of the shovels on the small pile of gravel had a sparkling white ribbon.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, the special guest on Tuesday during a groundbreaking ceremony on Field Street for the $81.4 million Litchfield Judicial District courthouse, thought it might have been for her.

But she was stopped in her tracks before she laid a finger on the instrument.

“That’s mine, Nancy, don’t touch it!” said State Rep. Roberta Willis, D-64, as laughter broke out.

Rep. Willis has seen the project unfold since joining the legislature in 2001, helping bring it back to the attention of the state after nearly 30 years of dormancy. She had been storing the shovel since 2002, waiting for this day. She emphasized the courthouse’s long history by handing out a timeline of the project compiled by the legislative research office.

“I know the commissioner said he was going to bring me a shovel,” Rep. Willis said. “I said, ‘No,’ I’m bringing my own shovel.’”

She said the building will have a positive impact on the local community and the judicial community.

“I think there was a lot of us who didn’t believe that this was going to happen, or at least within our lifetimes,” Rep. Willis said.

Ms. Wyman said that when Gov. Dannel Malloy got wind of the project’s stagnant state, he decided to act. The governor said similar words in May during a press conference as the State Bond Commission was set to approve funding for the 174,000 square-foot building that will be located where a mostly-empty parking lot now sits in Torrington.

“Forty years. I cannot believe it,” Ms. Wyman said. “This project is going to be, I think, so successful. It’s taken us a long time, but sometimes it takes us longer to get something right. And now we know that this is going to be right.”
Construction of the courthouse is expected to create 1,000 or more jobs in the area.

Torrington Mayor Elinor Carbone, who worked in the legal field for 35 years before being elected last fall, said that the courthouse will be an economic engine for the city and bring “quality” judicial services to the county.

“I’m very excited about that,” Ms. Carbone said.

She said that municipal department heads, including those in the city’s building, engineering, and planning and zoning departments, were instrumental in helping the project develop.

“These are all important people that helped nurture this project, kept it inching along, praying every time they made a phone call or sent an email looking for that positive message,” Ms. Carbone said.

The courthouse is consolidating four separate divisions of the court system, replacing the Judicial District Courthouse in Litchfield, Bantam Superior Court, a Family Services office in Litchfield and the Juvenile Court in Torrington.

“Having all of our staff, all of our judges in the same location with the ability to hear all of our matters in one facility…will promote efficiency,” said Chief Court Administrator Judge Patrick Carroll III.

In addition to Rep. Willis, a slew of state legislators were present, including state Reps. Michelle Cook (D-65), Jay Case (R-63), Bill Simanski (R-62), and state Sens. Clark Chapin (R-30) and Kevin Witkos (R-8).

Sen. Chapin said he wanted to give credit to the judicial division for helping to organize a compromise in the state legislature for the project.

It really has been a long time coming. Everybody has worked very hard, regardless of the administration,” he said. “We’re finally here today. It actually gives me some chills today.”

David Wlodkowski is the project manager for the state’s Division of Construction Services. He said the parking lot area will be fenced off by Labor Day.

KBE Building Corporation of Farmington is taking care of the construction of the complex, which has target completion date of spring 2016.

Initial work will include repurposing the infrastructure already in place, because water pipes will need to be moved as a foundation is set. The department is hoping to complete this work before winter’s arrival.