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Middlesex puts historic courtroom to good use

by Tom Chillemi

The courtroom in the Middlesex County historic courthouse has been modernized so it can be used for county public meetings. The historic courthouse was built in 1858 and became available as a meeting room when the new courthouse opened last year. The old facility will be used by all county entities including the board of supervisors, planning commission, board of zoning appeals and others.

Audience members will notice a sound system that sends the speakers’ voices throughout the room. There are seven microphones, including one at the speaker’s podium.
The meetings will now be recorded digitally.

A projector built into the ceiling projects information onto a retractable screen at the front of the room. There are monitors on the board’s table so the officials can read the same information that is on the screen.

The semi-circular meeting table is big enough to hold the entire 11-person planning commission. The lighting has been improved, plumbing updated, and new carpeting and ceiling installed. The room can seat more than twice as many people as the former boardroom in the

Woodward Building

The government bodies will move to the former jury room for closed sessions, so the audience will not have to leave the courtroom. A new side door was installed to give handicapped access to the elevator.

The jury box was removed, but the judges bench was retained. The railing that separated the audience from the court area also was removed.

A rich coat of sunflowered-colored paint finished the work. “We modernized it without changing the overall look,” said Middlesex County Administrator Charles Culley.

Workers did find one surprise. The floor, which is the ceiling of what was once the record room for the clerk’s office, is filled with cement. Culley figures it was done as a security measure. And it sure made drilling holes for wires difficult, he added.

posted 07.02.2008

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