Editorial: County courthouse on the move

If you’ve had business at the Franklin County Courthouse recently or had occasion to be on Hope Street in Greenfield, you may have noticed a difference in the traffic. Along with the usual cars in the parking lot or police vehicles along the street, there are a number of moving vans.

It’s the most telling sign to date that the $60 million renovation project is more than just proposals and contracts.

A larger sign, however, just turned the corner.

Today, much of the courthouse’s operations are set to shift completely to the Greenfield Corporate Center on Munson Street. As reported recently in The Recorder, work has been taking place at the former home of Phoenix Insurance Co., to provide court services and employees with a base of operation during the courthouse construction work. That renovation project is designed to transform the 70-year-old building into a facility better equipped to meet the needs of the court system and those working or visiting there for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, it will quickly become business as usual for the court, albeit at a location that’s a distance from downtown. That may take some getting used to and may cause some consternation at first, but over time will become less of an issue.

What will undoubtedly help is the setup at the Corporate Center. Far from a case of trying to shoehorn courthouse offices into existing space, what has been built there will be not only comfortable, but a taste of what a modern office means.

Better lighting and electrical service, that doesn’t have that make-shift or add-on feel, is just the start. Perhaps what is most noticeable is the space. Unlike the existing courthouse, where crowded hallways with a mix of visitors, lawyers, court employees and prisoners is the norm, what has been built for the court is a considerable improvement when it comes to privacy and security.

The good news here is that the plans for the new/old courthouse will mirror the idea of improving privacy and security and the conditions that the court employees work in.

Courthouse renovation, which will start with the removal of asbestos and testing for lead, will be getting under way in the next couple of weeks. This, too, is likely to have an impact on traffic near the corner of Main and Hope streets. But whatever the short-term pains, the long-term gains make it worth the effort.

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