Rutland courthouse opens

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(Host) Downtown Rutland’s new ten-million- dollar courthouse opens its doors today. The building has been under construction for almost eighteen months and will house Rutland’s district and family courts.

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, judges and court employees say the new, larger venue, will be a welcome change.

(Keck) Six marble columns, a large clock and decorative slate and copper panels create a dramatic entrance to the new thirty-thousand-square-foot courthouse. Construction workers have been busy for months getting the neoclassical building, which was designed by Tim Smith and Associates of Bennington, ready to open.

(Goldstone) “The most difficult thing in the courthouse program is the levels of circulation.

(Keck) That’s lead architect Jeff Goldstone.

(Goldstone) “It’s important that within the building, the judges can move around without encountering the public, without encountering prisoners who are being transported, that the prisoners can move around safely in their part of the building, and that the public can come into the building through security and move through their part of the building independently.”

(Keck) And Goldstone says the only place those groups should come together is in the five courtrooms.

(Goldstone) “So it’s a very complicated set of circulation patterns.”

(Keck) For the past fifteen years, Rutland’s Family Court has been making due in extremely cramped quarters in the basement of the Rutland Superior Courthouse. Diane Hendersen, Interim Manager for the Family Court, is thrilled with what the new courthouse will offer.

(Hendersen) It’s going to be great because we’ll have so much space. We have seven conference rooms just for family court. More storage, we have distinct areas for family court litigants to wait in, for children and a separate room for guardian ad-litems, more security.”

(Keck) Judges, too, are looking forward to the new facility. Superior Court Judge David Howard sits in his old office and points to the small courtroom next door where just a few feet separate judges from defendants.

(Howard) “And it’s not just the judge. It’s the people. If you have everybody crammed into a hallway waiting a few feet apart, even if you have deputies there, the chances that somebody gets emotional or angry, and you can’t react to it fast enough. Where as, if you have space to separate and not be right next to each other, I think that just increases everyone’s safety.”

(Keck) Judge Howard says having larger, more impressive surroundings may also encourage people to take their court experience more seriously.

(Howard) “I have a feeling that people react to court to some degree with their surroundings. It shows that family court and district court and the matters we deal with are important there.”

(Keck) Over the past few weeks, construction workers have been busy with last minute painting and sanding. Architect Jeff Goldstone says a lot of thought went into how the interior of the building would look as well as function. Warm, earthy colors like dark green, cream and maroon are used throughout and red oak trim lines the walls. The five courtrooms – three on the second floor for family court, and two on the third floor for district court are elegant and spacious. The Art in State Buildings Program spent more than fifty-thousand dollars to commission original artwork for the courthouse.

(Goldstone) “The integration of the art with the architecture was unique to this project.”

(Keck) Jeff Goldstone says Newfane artist Jim Florschutz created two wall size panels – one of glass and one of slate that are focal points of the lobby.

(Goldstone) “The glass walls are gridded as are the slate. It’s his reflection of the gridding of the city of Rutland and the imposition of order on a natural material. We’re using grids as well on the front of the building, which will be very similar in some ways.”

(Keck) Goldstone says he’s happy with how the building looks. But he says what will please him most is hearing from court employees six months from now. Hopefully, he says, they’ll tell him the security, traffic patterns, waiting areas, conference rooms and storage space all work. A formal ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for later this summer, once landscaping and sidewalks are completed.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.

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