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Courthouse move

Moving the operations of the Franklin County Courthouse to the office park off Munson Street while the Main Street building is reconstructed wasn’t the decision hoped for by many in Greenfield. But as the community found out last week, that is what The Department of Capital Asset Management, the state agency that’s running the show, intends to do.

DCAM’s decision seems, in large part, based on cost. While we can understand why many a downtown merchant isn’t happy — and we share in their unhappiness — it’s probably the right decision.

As reported last week, the lease of the building that once housed the Phoenix Corp. headquarters and will be the temporary home for court functions and 66 employees, comes out to $1.7 million a year. Compare that to the downtown option, the former Carr Hardware space, where DCAM found it would cost an additional $8.9 million over three years.

“That is not what we deemed reasonable,” DCAM Commissioner Carole Cornelison.

That’s quite a difference in cost. Given how the spending of taxpayer money gets scrutinized, we think the public would be roasting DCAM over the coals had the agency gone with the more expensive option for a temporary home for what’s expected to be a 2½-year project.

That’s not to say that the move away from downtown, even for a relatively short period of time, won’t have an impact on the restaurants and other businesses that have benefited from being in close proximity to the courthouse.

But that potential loss of business could be reduced.

Begin by keeping the Registry of Deeds downtown. Of the options that the state is still considering, three of them would have the office remain in, or in close proximity to, downtown. While the registry doesn’t see the same kind of traffic the courthouse does, it would keep help.

And courthouse employees could make it a point to head downtown for lunch whenever possible. Whether there’s a shuttle downtown or not, courthouse business remains critical to the health of downtown. This also includes the attorneys who spend plenty of time in court.

This move should be a call, too, for the rest of the community to spend its money downtown at breakfast and lunchtime.

This can turn out to be a temporary inconvenience, and just a little effort could help ameliorate the impact.

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