Yesterday afternoon Harry Spence, the Court Administrator of the Massachusetts Trial Court, visited Lowell tour the Superior and District Court. He was accompanied by State Senator Eileen Donoghue and State Representatives Tom Golden, Kevin Murphy and Dave Nangle. I joined them during the visit to Superior Court which also houses the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds.
While Spence lamented the relative state of disrepair of the entire building (while acknowledging its stunning interior architecture), he seemed mostly concerned with the day-to-day safety of the Probation Office which is located on the third floor of the front part of the building. The office has only one means of egress, a narrow iron stairway, and is not accessible to people with mobility limitations. In case of a fire that blocked that stairway, the Probation Department has a chain-link emergency ladder that can be tossed over the balcony, but such a method of escape is filled with its own risks.
Spence and the city's state house delegation hope to convince Governor Patrick to include money in the next capital plan for the new judicial center which is to be constructed on a vacant site alongside the Lord Overpass. The city has long hoped that the judicial center would serve as an anchor of the Hamilton Canal redevelopment project. Fortunately, other aspects of that project are proceeding at their own pace.
Initially the judicial center was to be built by 2012 but its timetable has been continuously slid back so that now the earliest it could be operational would be in 2017.