SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Massachusetts Executive Office of the Trial Court has issued their report on the condition assessment of the Roderick Ireland Courthouse in Springfield.

22News has been following this story for several years. The Hampden County Courthouse, also known as the Roderick L. Ireland Courthouse, in downtown Springfield is nearly five decades old. For the past 15 years, employees have raised concerns about the health risks that allegedly come with working in the building.

Concerns began in 2005 upon discovery that four courthouse employees died from pancreatic cancer within a 10-year span. Then in 2018, these concerns were renewed when Judge William Boyle was diagnosed with ALS, just five years after Judge Robert Kumor died of the same disease. Both worked in the same office, one right after the other, and died of the disease.

The courthouse was closed in the summer of 2021 due to continued health concerns of employees. Several offices, including the Hampden County District Attorney, moved out of the building to other locations.

The trial court has determined there is no other suitable location for a courthouse in downtown Springfield and building a new one would take years to complete. Instead, they’re moving forward with a comprehensive rehabilitation and renovation plan that includes new windows, a new roof, and a new HVAC system.

President of the Hampden County Bar Association Joseph Pacella said he has been fighting for improvements at the courthouse since last summer, “We are really concerned about all of the health and safety of our members and all the people we work with inside the courthouse. We want it brought down to the studs and replaced completely. We have great concern that some of the work proposed would be scheduled while we have people in the building, so I’m not sure how that would happen.”

22News received this statement from the Trial Court:

 February 24, 2022
Springfield Courthouse Colleagues & Stakeholders:
We have carefully reviewed and discussed the facilities condition assessment recently submitted to the Trial Court by the Division of Capital Asset Management & Maintenance (DCAMM), which is linked below.

The report provides a comprehensive assessment by independent architects and engineers of the Roderick Ireland Courthouse at 50 State Street and the Juvenile & Housing Courthouse at 80 State Street. It documents existing building system conditions of the court complex, identifies deficiencies and relevant lifecycle implications, and recommends necessary repairs and/or upgrades, and the order of magnitude of cost for the improvements.

The report findings have helped us to understand and prioritize capital improvements in the existing structures, as well as explore other feasible options. Based on a preliminary review, it is unlikely that the Trial Court could locate a suitable site within the downtown Springfield area that could serve the needs of our various court departments. Moreover, construction of a new court complex would unquestionably involve an extended process of site acquisition, planning, and design for construction that would take many years to complete.

Consequently, we have agreed with DCAMM that the best solution is a comprehensive rehabilitation and renovation of building systems and workspaces in the existing courthouse. For the Ireland Courthouse, this includes the renewal or replacement of windows, roof, HVAC systems and ductwork, electrical, plumbing and exterior repairs, interior ceiling, carpeting, paint and finishes – changes to revitalize the building so it is on par with contemporary building spaces. The planning will include the opportunity for court employees and court users to provide input on interior upgrades. Working with DCAMM, we envision a comfortable and modern facility within the existing structure.

We continue to work with DCAMM and the Executive Office of Administration & Finance to determine the scope, schedule, and funding for this work. It is estimated that the planning and design required by state procurement policies for the extensive renovation envisioned by the Trial Court and DCAMM would enable the actual renovation to begin as early as 2024.

In the meantime, however, the Trial Court’s Facilities Management & Capital Planning Department will contract for interim improvements, including roof repairs, ceiling repairs and tile replacement, installation of dehumidification systems and measures, and ongoing air quality monitoring. We remain committed to protecting the health and wellbeing of all courthouse personnel and court users.

As we continue to share information on building testing, linked below are the most recent air quality testing results. The test results for both buildings did not identify air quality conditions or levels of concern. We will continue to discuss building plans and provide updates as we move forward.

Chief Justice Jeffrey Locke
Court Administrator John Bello
Facilities Management & Capital Planning Director Chuck O’Brien

Below are links to the assessment:

Springfield Facilities Condition Assessment – February 2022     
IAQ Report – 50 State Street    
IAQ Report – 80 State Street