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Regional News

Springfield Lawmakers Demand New Courthouse Or Substantial Renovations

The Hampden County Hall of Justice.
File Photo
/
The Republican
The Hampden County Hall of Justice.

Almost every member of Springfield's legislative delegation signed onto a letter to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker asking that he issue an emergency order to rehabilitate or rebuild the Roderick Ireland Courthouse, which has fallen into such disrepair that the Hampden district attorney has removed his staff. 

In the letter spearheaded by Rep. Bud Williams, the delegation —Williams, Reps. Jake Oliveira, Orlando Ramos, Carlos González and Angelo Puppolo, and Sens. Eric Lesser and Adam Gomez — told Baker that when it comes to the downtown Springfield justice center, "the only real solution is to tear it down, rebuild or find a new home for the courthouse."

Last week, District Attorney Anthony Gulluni pulled his employees from the building until a full decontamination takes place. He said the condition of the building had deteriorated so much that mold was visibly growing in parts of the structure and called for a more permanent solution.

"I believe that if we were farther east this building would have been replaced a long time ago," Gulluni said.

The Trial Court closed the courthouse for mold remediation and environmental testing. The building remains closed.

On Tuesday, Baker was asked about the Springfield courthouse and said his administration had told the Trial Court, which oversees the building, "that we are available at their disposal for whatever point or purpose they believe we can help them deal with the issues that are there."

"It's pretty clear the building has issues. And, as I said, we'll do whatever we can to help the Trial Court with this property," Baker said. After another question on the topic, he added, "the Trial Court has made very clear to me on numerous occasions, that they are an independent and separate branch of government ... at the end of the day, that building belongs to them, not to us."

Williams, in an interview Friday, dismissed that distinction.

“At the end of the day, he’s the CEO for the commonwealth. And we need him to exhaust all means,” Williams said. “I don’t want to hear him say the trial court told me to mind my business. The citizens of here don’t want to hear that.”

Both Williams and Lesser, also in an interview Friday, noted the governor oversees the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, or DCAMM.

In a statement, the Trial Court said it has a “collaborative relationship” with the executive branch and the governor. It said, along with DCAMM, it contracted this summer with a consultant to undergo a comprehensive review of the Springfield court complex. That review, the Trial Court said, began two weeks ago.

The court, in its statement, also noted funding challenges — and its own lack of budget authority.

“Bond funding is approved by the Legislature and the Executive Branch authorizes the spending,” the statement read. “The Trial Court, in its 2017 capital funding request, asked for $158,000,000 annually to fund the 20-year capital master plan, but only about half that amount has been authorized annually since that time.”

In 2017, the courthouse was renamed in honor of former Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, a Springfield native and the high court's first African American justice.

Asked on Friday by email to comment about the situation at the courthouse, Ireland replied that he was not available.

NEPM's Alden Bourne contributed to this report, which contains reporting from the State House Service's Colin A. Young.

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