New Cupola at Courthouse
Construction crews hoisted a shiny, new cupola atop the historic Upper Marlboro Courthouse last Thursday, marking a milestone in the effort to restore the building after a devastating four-alarm fire in November 2004.
Coakley & Williams Construction plans to celebrate the Duvall Wing accomplishment with local officials at a "topping out" ceremony at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow. The $40 million renovation project at the 125-year-old building is expected to be finished by the end of 2008.
The restoration effort began in September 2005 after the fire that County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) called a tragedy. The building had been under renovation and vacant at the time of the fire. No one was killed or seriously injured in the blaze, but the structural damage was immense.
The courthouse briefly caught fire again in late January, when sparks from a construction worker's welding tool ignited building materials on the roof. Firefighters quickly contained the blaze, which did not disrupt the renovations.
-- JUDSON BERGER, Gazette Staff Writer
Scanner to Help Find Stolen Cars
The Laurel Police Department is getting an automated license plate reader that would help officers recover stolen vehicles.
The $21,000 device uses character recognition software to interpret photos taken by its two cameras, said Kevin Frost, the city's Internet technology director. The tag number is sent to an in-car laptop computer that runs it through a national law enforcement database, which would alert police to reports of auto theft.