Attorneys file lawsuit in hopes of keeping Roderick Ireland Courthouse closed | News
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM)–Roderick Ireland Courthouse in Springfield has been closed for more than a week due to growing mold concerns. Now a group of attorneys have filed a temporary restraining order hoping to keep it that way.
Lawyers with the Hampden County Registry of Deeds have filed a case against the Mass Trial Court, in the hopes of keeping the building closed until a more permanent solution to years of environmental health concerns can be implemented.
The case has been filed on behalf of not only attorneys but anyone who has to set foot in this building. It accuses the Trial Court of withholding critical information about the building’s safety and kicking the can down the road when it comes to funding a safer courthouse.
“I don’t think it should be named the hall of justice anymore, I think it should be named the hall of injustice and toxicity,” said John Greaney, former Massachusetts supreme court justice.
The employees who work in the Roderick Ireland Courthouse in Springfield have had enough.
They’ve been forced to work elsewhere for over a week due to mold concerns, but now they are taking Mass Trial Court to court in the hopes of finding a permanent fix for years of health concerns surrounding the building.
Named as a defendant in the case also, the head of the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance or DCAMM.
Attorneys for the employees said DCAMM had not turned their concerns about the courthouse’s safety into action for a safer building.
“We asked ‘how do we move ourselves up because we’re having so many health issues. Are other courthouses having these sick, adverse health consequences at this courthouse? “ We can’t get a straight answer out of DCAMM,” said attorney Laura Mangini.
In the meantime, the attorneys said Mass Trial Court has dragged their feet on giving an update to the current mold problem. The report that was due on Wednesday has now been pushed to the weekend. Part of filing in court, the attorneys said, will help lift the curtain on information that’s been gathered from past studies on the courthouse.
“That’s one of the things that we’re looking for in this complaint, full and complete disclosure of all the reports all of the studies all of the air quality test all the financial reports because frankly, we believe there’s a lack of transparency going on here,” said Mangini.
The Mass Trial court has told Western Mass News they absorb the cost of mold remediation through their operating budget. They said they also started working with a consultant in July to investigate problems with the courthouse. The goal of which they say is quote:
Within a day of learning about the mold problem in the Roderick Ireland Courthouse, the Trial Court closed the courthouse and contracted with an environmental testing firm and a licensed mold remediation company to begin work in the building. The mold remediation contractor surveyed all areas that showed the presence of a mold-like growth and determined that chemical remediation was the most effective approach. The remediation process has been thorough, detailed and comprehensive in the scope of the work. The remediation process is nearing completion and the Trial Court is expecting an environmental testing report within days. The Roderick Ireland Courthouse remains closed while this work is being completed. The Trial Court will determine the ability to reopen based on environmental test results and the conclusion of mold remediation and cleanup efforts.
In July of 2021, the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM), together with the Trial Court, contracted with a consultant to conduct a detailed assessment and develop recommendations for necessary upgrades to building systems at the Springfield Court Complex at 50 and 80 State Street in Springfield. The assessment will investigate mechanical, plumbing, and envelope conditions at 50 State Street and mechanical, building automation systems, and water infiltration issues at 80 State Street. The goals of the assessment are to document existing system conditions of the court complex, identify deficiencies and relevant lifecycle implications, recommend necessary repairs and upgrades, and provide an implementation plan and order of magnitude cost estimates for the improvements. The consultant began work two weeks ago.
The consultant will synthesize the information gathered and summarize an evaluation of the overall building conditions to provide an overview of issues to be addressed. The consultant will develop prioritized recommendations to address the identified deficiencies through necessary repairs or upgrades for the building systems, which will be used for planning and decision-making regarding funding and other key resource allocation.
The Trial Court has a collaborative relationship with the Executive Branch and the governor. The Trial Court has worked closely with DCAMM on capital projects on state-owned buildings and on the Court Capital Master Plan. Bond funding is approved by the Legislature and the Executive Branch authorizes the spending. 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. – Erika Scully-Santiago, trial court spokesperson.
After years of not using their operating budget to fund a permanent fix, senator Eric Lesser said the legislature could mandate the trial court spend money in western Mass.
“Keep in mind we would need 200 legislators to agree with that coming from other areas. That’s a complicated process. It’s certainly one we’re committed to doing. This lawsuit is also going to be a very important piece of helping build the momentum, build a case, build a record, frankly for just how widespread these issues are,” said Sen. Lesser.
Earlier this week, trial court told us they had received an offer of DCAMM funds from the Governor to abate the mold. We reached out to see if they’ve actually taken the executive branch up on that offer.