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New Family Courts, Wilmington parking top judiciary budget

Chief Justice Leo Strine is hoping a sour-looking budget year won’t prompt delays in building two new downstate Family Court buildings.

Strine is hoping to get $6.3 million in next year’s budget to buy land in Kent and Sussex Counties for two new Family Court facilities.

Legislators gave the courts $1 million over the past two years for planning and design work on the new facilities, but have yet to commit serious cash towards construction.

Some have grumbled the relatively new Kent County Courthouse should’ve included space for Family Court, which Strine said would’ve been a good move at the time.

“I also don’t think it’s practicable to lift the roof off the Kent County Courthouse at this point and put another floor on. If you’ve got the leverage to do that, we’ll do it, but I think the reality is we’re going to have to build two new courthouses.”

Strine says there are safety concerns for those visiting Family Court and those who work there, citing an incident where an offender spit on a judge in an elevator they shared to get to the courtroom.

Constructing them near downtown cores, he says, could also revitalize those neighborhoods.

“When you build these buildings it could transform areas of these downtowns that are, right now, underutilized, they’re not historically coherent and it can transform them in a way that encourages other businesses to come in and take a chance on downtown Dover or downtown Georgetown.”

Much of the presentation to state budget officials echoed past requests – including offering a parking stipend for workers in Wilmington and setting up a dedicated technology fund.

Budget hearings from state agencies and departments are now complete. A final proposal for lawmakers to consider will be issued in January.

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