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Federal courthouse is nearing completion; Buffalo officials eye opening by Dec. 12

After several delays, a major Buffalo construction project is nearing completion, and federal court officials are preparing to begin operations in their new building by Dec. 12.

"At this point, we hope to be fully moved into the new building and open for business by Dec. 12," U.S. District Court Clerk Michael J. Roemer told The Buffalo News on Monday afternoon. "We're finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."

Construction began on the new courthouse, which so far has not been named, in July 2007 on Niagara Square, across Niagara Street from Buffalo's City Hall.

With an estimated cost of at least $137 million, the building is expected to be the most expensive government building in the history of Western New York.

Planned opening dates have been pushed back four times because of a variety of construction delays. The most recent difficulty, a moisture problem that created a few isolated patches of mold in the building, has been corrected, Roemer said.

"The moisture problem has been addressed. The building is just about complete, and we plan to begin moving all of our equipment over there on Oct. 18," Roemer said. "I think the building looks great. Everything over there is going to be state of the art."

The moisture problem was first reported by The News on Feb. 16. On May 20, officials of the U.S. General Services Administration, who are overseeing the construction, announced that the the problem had been caused by improper sealing of drywall in the building and that it would be fixed by the contractor at no cost to taxpayers.

A reporter seeking an update from the GSA on Monday was told to contact a spokeswoman who was not available.

The unusual, egg-shaped building has all 4,400 words of the U.S. Constitution etched into glass panels in the entry pavilion, which faces Niagara Square.

Buffalo's current federal courthouse, at Franklin and Court streets, is named after Michael J. Dillon, a federal tax agent who was assassinated while on duty. The Dillon building, which opened in 1936, will be used to house U.S. Bankruptcy Court and other federal agencies after federal court operations are moved to the new building.

The move, involving about 200 federal workers, will be a major undertaking, Roemer said, with movers carting everything from wastebaskets to computers to filing cabinets and wooden furniture.

"It's going to take a lot of work, but we're very excited about it," Roemer said.


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