In 2014, the Trial Court initiated the development of a new capital master plan, with the goal of addressing the needs of over 100 courthouses across the Commonwealth. Many of these facilities are aging, in disrepair, and need to be replaced. Capital funding for court construction and renovation has decreased in recent years. The current limited funding level makes developing a Capital Plan vital to determining where the Courts' needs are greatest.
Since the Courthouse Improvement Act of 1988, there have been numerous capital appropriations targeted to improving the condition of the Commonwealth’s courthouses. These appropriations responded to both short and long-term planning goals ranging from emergency repairs at community-located District Courts, design and construction of regional justice centers housing multiple court departments serving several communities, and access to justice at courthouses statewide.
To continue accomplishing these objectives the new capital plan will:
- establish and apply objective criteria for ranking facilities according to relative need based on building conditions, caseload, overcrowding and other factors;
- create a methodology for setting priorities for planning court capital improvements, including new construction, renovations and repairs;
- provide for periodic review of project priorities and allow for adjustments based on new information, changed circumstances, advancing technologies, and funding availability;
- define the design principles that will guide the courthouse capital improvements;
- identify operational and organizational changes that could ease overcrowding, instead of or in addition to capital improvement.
The capital plan was developed by a team comprised of representatives from the Trial Court and the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, plus the design consultant RicciGreene Associates. A significant amount of data was collected for use in determining investment need: building condition assessments, staffing projections, caseload and populations trends. Other criteria accounted for factors such as regional significance, historical value, and potential to replace private leases. In ranking facility needs, plan prioritizes courthouses with severe problems involving life safety, security and accessibility.
The capital plan can be reviewed at the links below. The Trial Court is soliciting reactions and comments, and expects to amend the plan with input from court users and staff. A final plan will be released later this year.
Comments should be submitted electronically on letterhead with the appropriate address or organization by Friday, May 26, 2017 to MP.Court.Comments@jud.state.ma.us