TRENTON, N.J.—Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes announced he will run for a third term as the top official in County government this November at a ceremony today to place the final steel beam atop the new Mercer County Criminal Courthouse.
The “topping out” ceremony is common at construction sites around the world. The placement of the last steel beam on a structure is celebrated as a sign of prosperity.
Surrounded by other County officials and ironworkers and standing beside his wife, Pamela, Hughes used the occasion to announce his intention to maintain his office.
“When I look at this building just half finished, and when I see how much more we can accomplish in County government, this provides for me an excellent opportunity to announce I’m seeking a third term as County Executive,” Hughes said.
“This [courthouse] needs to be finished, we need to continue to work to be released from the grips of this recession that has burdened us for far too long, and we will not walk away.”
Hughes was first elected as County Executive in 2003 and again in 2007 after serving on the freeholder board for two terms.
Construction on the new, $80 million Mercer County Criminal Courthouse began in June 2010 and the building is scheduled to be completed in mid-2012.
Hughes said the Jan. 4 “topping out” ceremony was an important milestone in the project, which had been discussed in County government for nearly four decades before Hughes initiated a plan for a new building.
“The effort and careful consideration that has gone into planning and constructing this courthouse is second to none. What this building says is Mercer County will move forward when it has the opportunity to build and the opportunity to put people to work,” Hughes said.
The project is being financed through $76 million in Build America Bonds, part of the federal stimulus package that allows state, county and local governments to issue bonds with interest rates subsidized by the federal government. These bonds allowed the County to save taxpayers about $3.1 million in reduced interest payments.
Hughes thanked newly re-elected Congressman Rush Holt (D-12), who attended today’s ceremony, for his work to secure Build America Bonds for Mercer County and said the courthouse project received no financing from the State of New Jersey or from municipal governments.
“Build America is not just a euphemism, we are talking about building communities,” Holt said. “This courthouse is a centerpiece of County government and without Brian Hughes and his determination, this would not have happened.”
The new Criminal Courthouse is one of the largest and most important construction projects ever undertaken in Mercer County. The building is located at South Warren and Market streets, directly behind the existing, century-old criminal courthouse. The new, 141,000-square-foot building will meet environmentally friendly LEED standards.
The building represents a critical source of jobs for trade and labor organizations, creating 250 to 300 trade and construction jobs. It also will create a modern, safe working environment for the judiciary and hundreds of County and state employees. Approximately 300 County and state employees will work in the new courthouse in agencies including, but not limited to: judiciary; Drug Court; Probation; Case Management; Records Storage; and the Sheriff’s Office.
The condition of the current criminal courthouse became increasingly problematic, the victim of years of patchwork fixes and short-term remedies, until Hughes initiated discussions about a new courthouse shortly after being elected County Executive in 2003. What followed were several years of internal deliberations to find a permanent solution, which included the possibility of completely rehabilitating and renovating the existing courthouse, and several iterations of designs before a conclusion was reached. Ultimately, the Hughes administration and the Mercer County Improvement Authority, in partnership with The Honorable Linda Feinberg, Assignment Judge for Mercer Vicinage Superior Court, decided that a new building was the only viable option.
At the close of the ceremony, Hughes, other elected officials and dignitaries and the ironworkers on site signed the steel beam, which was painted white, before the beam was hoisted by crane into its position at the top of the structure.
Also in attendance were: County Freeholders Ann Cannon, Dan Benson, Anthony Carabelli, John Cimino, Pasquale Colavita Jr., and Keith V. Hamilton; Freeholder-elect Andrew Koontz; State Senator Linda Greenstein; Sheriff Jack Kemler; County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello; County Surrogate Diane Gerofsky; Marge Caldwell-Wilson, North Ward councilwoman for the City of Trenton; and Mercer County Improvement Authority Chairman John Thurber.