MACHIAS, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --- Debate is starting to heat up over proposed plans to renovate and expand the Washington County courthouse in Machias. It's a project that county sheriff Donnie Smithsays he's still firmly against.

The state wants to put at least $8.5 million into the158 year-oldcourthouse. That includes plans to put a new building behind it as well as renovatethesuperior court inside the existing building.The Washington county board of commissioners recently backed a land lease for the expansion although leaders say there's still a way to go, before they make their final decision.

Sheriff Smith has been a longstanding critic of the project. He feels expanding the courthouse isn't necessary and would just leave state taxpayers picking up the bill.

"Most days the superior courtroom is vacant so to add a third courtroom at anywhere from $8 to $12 million is ludicrous," he said.

"Before we could get into any type of design phase the state at least needed to have a land lease in place to proceed," remarked county commissioner Chris Gardner, "that doesn't mean that we've okayed thefinal project...we've just allowed it to continue through the process."

Washington County's board of commissioners is meeting next Thursday, December 12at the courthouse. Sheriff smith says he and others are planning to bring their concerns to that meeting.

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