BALTIMORE – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) today chaired a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing at the Edward A. Garmatz Federal Building and United States Courthouse to highlight the need to improve safety and security at all federal courthouses. Baltimore’s Federal Courthouse opened in 1976 and has been cited in numerous reports for its many deficiencies.
“The Garmatz Federal Building and Courthouse is the least expensive courthouse ever built in the United States in terms of dollars spent per square foot. Having been built on the cheap, 33 years later, the architectural and infrastructure failings of this building are well known and impede the important work of the Court and compromise the safety of judges, staff and public who use this Courthouse every day,” said Senator Cardin.
Since 1998, the General Services Administration (GSA) has published 11 reports on the building’s condition that repeatedly cite problems with the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical systems and safety and security risks.
In 1996, GSA studied the existing conditions at the Courthouse and developed a master plan to deal with the facility’s myriad problems. That same year, GSA and the District Court committed to long-term renovations of the interior and exterior of the Courthouse. Four years later the Judicial Conference of the United States recommended a new courthouse for Baltimore and placed the project on its prioritized five-year courthouse construction plan. Unfortunately, major cost control efforts within the Judicial Conference resulted in a change to that recommendation and Baltimore is no longer a candidate for a new courthouse.
“The 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City revealed a disturbing engineering flaw that exists in many older federal buildings and courthouses,” said Senator Cardin. “Improved safety standards are now the norm in new federal facilities to prevent the ‘progressive collapse’ we saw in Oklahoma City. These improved standards include exterior glazing, installation of blast glass, and sufficient setbacks from adjacent roads. We need to ensure that older federal facilities, such as the one in Baltimore, receive the upgrades and renovations that are needed to be safe and secure.”
“The Baltimore federal courthouse is important to our city’s legal community and to Baltimore’s future economic development plans,” said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “It is critical that employees and visitors have a safe, secure, functional environment. Furthermore, a new courthouse would create construction jobs, commerce, and a host of other economic and social benefits for the entire city.”