Human Rights Commission wants courthouse downtown

 

Says temporary move out of downtown could have devastating effect on businesses

Greenfield Recorder 08/21/2012, Page A01

By CHRIS CURTIS

Recorder Staff

GREENFIELD — The town’s Human Rights Commission intends to add their collective voice to those opposing the potential for a temporary courthouse relocation miles from the downtown.

The courthouse at the corner of Main and Hope streets is slated for a three- to five-year, $60 million renovation and where the center — with its 260-plus employees and the traffic it generates for local businesses — will spend those years has yet to be decided.

Officials present the choice as between a relocation to the Greenfield Corporate Center on Munson Street or the former Carr Hardware building on Wells Street downtown.

The commission held a public forum Monday to gather community input, and the four members present voted unanimously to advocate for a relocation downtown.

Elected officials outnumbered residents in the audience, with Mayor William Martin, Register of Deeds Joseph Gochinski and state representatives Denise Andrews and Paul Mark in attendance.

Mark and Andrews both said they have written letters and contacted the Department of Capital Asset Management commissioner in support of a move within the downtown. Andrews said three to five years of decreased revenues could be too heavy a blow to some businesses.

“It’s not like it’s a hardship or an inconvenience; it has the potential to be a fatal blow to some of our downtown businesses, and we can’t afford not to articulate that as hard as we can,” Andrews said.

Martin said the town has no control over the choice to be made by DCAM or over property owners submittingproposals but reiterated his support for keeping the court downtown.

Martin said moving to the Wells Street location would keep business in the area, and the state investment in renovating the disused building could pave the way for a new business to move in after the court services move out.

When the decision will be made is not clear, but Martin said the demolition contractor has already been hired and should begin in September or October.

The Hope Street courthouse is home to Superior, District, and Probate and Family courts, as well as the law library, Registry of Deeds and probation offices.The Registry of Deeds will remain in the downtown area. Gochinski said the Registry of Deeds has been proceeding separately and may be moving into the space recently vacated by Central Appliance on Main Street, the former Mix ’n’ Match building on Olive Street or the Greenfield Community College Foundation’s downtown center on Main Street this fall.

Greenfield resident and Clinical and Support Options employee George Touloumtzis said a move to the Corporate Center would also harm court users.

“I think the human toll, in addition to the stuff about keeping a vibrant downtown economy, is really serious,” Touloumtzis said.

Touloumtzis said there is little public transportation to the Corporate Center and the frustration, effort and expense of getting there could be enough to keep many from keeping court dates.

“There’s a lot of people who would not show up and I’m just worried about people becoming more marginalized,” Touloumtzis said.

Montague resident Everett Smith argued the Munson Street location is only a five minute drive from downtown and that the impact to the town would be from the loss of parking meter and parking ticket revenue.

Martin said the town has 10-hour metered parking in the area of the courthouse.

Commission chairman Lewis Metaxas said he will write DCAM with the group’s recommendation and urged residents to sign an online petition begun by two town counselors at greenfieldcourthouse.wordpress.com.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.comor 413-772-0261, ext. 257