Officials on Thursday welcomed the latest addition to Montgomery County Circuit Court in Rockville — a new $140 million, six-story tower that combines functions under one roof.
County Executive Isiah Leggett, Council President Craig Rice and John W. Debelius III, the administrative judge for the Sixth Judicial Circuit, participated in a ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the new wing, which is perched at the corner of Maryland Avenue and East Jefferson Street, near Town Square.
The south tower is the new home for the court’s family and juvenile services department, which used to hold its proceedings in a courthouse about a block away, according to county spokeswoman Esther Bowring.
Civil and criminal cases will remain in the north tower — what used to be called the Montgomery County Judicial Center.
Bowring said the new south tower has been in operation since May 5. Construction on the project began in May 2011, a month before the opening of the brand new Montgomery County District Court building across Jefferson Street.
According to county records, the nine-story Circuit Court building known as the Montgomery County Judicial Center, at 50 Maryland Ave., was completed in 1980.
The problem, county officials said in a news release, was that Circuit Court filings exceeded the 17-courtroom capacity of the old Judicial Center, leaving no space for expansion.
Bowring said a needs assessment in 2003 projected that 31 circuit judges would be needed by 2020, which also meant an increase in support staff.
Montgomery County Circuit Court currently has 22 judges.
The new tower adds 10 courtrooms and eight hearing rooms, along with mediation rooms and offices.
The features of the new south tower include roof-mounted solar panels and a green roof with plants that absorb rainwater and help provide natural insulation. Outdoor features expected to be completed later this spring include a water fountain, new trees, benches and a memorial walkway, according to a county news release.
The construction of the south tower is the second phase of a three-part project.
The first phase called for the renovation of the roof and heating and air conditioning system in the north tower. The final phase, which is expected to begin in June, will relocate the jury office, expand the state attorney’s office, and upgrade and renovate the clerk of the court offices.
The final phase of the project is expected to take 15 months.
Bowring said the old juvenile courthouse — which once housed District Court proceedings — is being studied for other uses by the county.