By Chris Maza
EAST LONGMEADOW – Governor’s Council Member Michael Albano recently sent a letter to state Rep. Peter Kocot, chair of the House Committee on State Administration and Oversight, voicing his support for a house bill 3685, which requests a feasibility study for the Hampden County Hall of Justice in Springfield.
Albano, a Longmeadow resident whose office is located in East Longmeadow, is a former probation officer and former member of the parole board. He is the sole Western Massachusetts member of the Governor’s Council, which advises on the appointment of judges and clerk magistrates in one of its capacities, located in Western Massachusetts.
The bill, which was sponsored in 2013 by Springfield state Rep. Sean Curran, calls for a study that would determine “the feasibility of constructing a state of the art 21st century courthouse, that has up to date wireless technology, data storage, Internet streaming, and real time courtroom audio and visual technology located in the city of Springfield.”
The Hampden County Hall of Justice houses the Springfield District Court as well as the Hampden County Superior Court.
Under the bill, the study would look into sites in the city’s North End and South End neighborhoods, including the U.S. Postal Service building, the Peter Pan Bus terminal or The Republican’s building.
In his letter to Kocot, Albano cited other courthouse projects in the state.
“Having recently visited the Worcester Courthouse and noting the state is moving ahead with a $175 million court building in Lowell, such a project in Springfield would produce a major economic impact for the region,” he said.
In 2007, a new district courthouse was constructed in Worcester with a price tag of $180 million. The House of Representatives agreed in October 2013 to sell the former courthouse, vacant since the new one opened, to the city for $1 with plans to redevelop the historic building.
Albano added, “Clearly, given the physical condition of the Hall of Justice, action is required.”
Clerk of Courts Laura Gentile outlined some of the building’s physical problems in a list of “concerns” that accompanied a two-page letter to state Sen. Gale Candaras in December 2013. The list included structural concerns such as cracked walls and leaking windows; health, accessibility and safety concerns; a lack of space in courtrooms, offices, lockup and storage; and a lack of updated technology.
Albano said he has toured courthouses in each of the state’s four western counties – Hampden, Hampshire, Berkshire and Franklin – and “speaking with members of the judiciary, there is widespread support for a new Hampden County Courthouse.”