By Shawn Regan firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — HAVERHILL — The local courthouse is about to get a long-overdue makeover.
State Rep. Brian Dempsey, D-Haverhill, said Haverhill District Court has been awarded $4 million over the next two years to make a long list of renovations and improvements inside and outside the building, including handicapped accessibility upgrades, an elevator, a new roof and windows, and plumbing and electrical upgrades. New ceilings, lights and signs will be put up throughout the building.
The almost 50-year-old building’s original heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems are to be replaced with high-efficiency units and expanded to more areas in the building, Dempsey said. Both courtrooms will be renovated and fire alarms, security systems, and sprinklers systems will be replaced with modern equipment, he said.
Outside, new walkways, stairs, railings and curbs are planned, as well as improvements to the public and employee parking areas and sewer and storm drain work.
The building’s most pressing need for sometime has been the installation of ramps and associated infrastructure at the front of the courthouse to accommodate people in wheelchairs. For many years, people with physical disabilities have had to enter the building through the back door.
Dempsey, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the state will set a schedule for the renovations over the next few weeks. He said he expects work will begin in January or February.
Dempsey said he toured the building with First Justice Stephen Abany a few months ago and that it was clear to him the building needs attention.
“They do a great job making an old building look good,” Dempsey said of courthouse officials. “But it was obvious the air quality and the accessibility issues need to be addressed.”
Abany said the courthouse staff are “extremely grateful” for Dempsey’s help in securing money for the repairs.
“Our building is almost a half-century old and is currently inaccessible to people with disabilities,” Abany said. “We hope to rehabilitate and modernize the courthouse. We want it to become a safe, secure and accessible building for the communities of Haverhill, Boxford, Georgetown, and Groveland.”
Dempsey said the project will be funded in two parts: The first round will consist of $1 million this year and another $3 million in Fiscal 2014. He said the money is guaranteed.
The project was first approved in the state’s 2008 capital facilities bond legislation. That legislation authorized the state to sell bonds to finance projects specified in the law, Dempsey said. Selected projects then receive money at the discretion of the governor.
Dempsey said he worked closely with the Gov. Deval Patrick’s office to see the courthouse project included in the governor’s 2013 Capital Investment Plan.
The project will be managed by the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management, which is working to prioritize the order of repairs, Dempsey said.
“The building in its current state does not provide access to those who need to conduct business or perform their civil duty and does not provide a proper work environment for employees or visitors to the court,” Dempsey said. “These improvements will allow it to remain a resource to the city and provide service and convenience to Haverhill’s citizens.”