EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 5, 2012

Plaistow court to close for upgrades

New $24,600 heating, cooling system to be installed

By Dustin Luca dluca@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — PLAISTOW — The days of cooling all of 10th Circuit Court in Plaistow with noisy, power-hungry air conditioners will soon be over.

The courthouse on Elm Street will be closed next week as the town carries out a $24,600 project to replace the building’s heating and cooling systems with a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

Right now, the courthouse is heated with a natural gas furnace on the first floor and an old electrical heating system on the second floor. During the summer, air conditioners blast cool air into each individual room, including the courtroom itself, according to Dave Dowles, Plaistow’s building maintenance supervisor.

The project will replace all of that with a natural gas furnace and central air system covering both floors. A utility room will also be created on the second floor to distribute the hot and cold air, Dowles said.

The court serves Atkinson, Danville, Hampstead, Kingston, Newton and Plaistow. The building is owned by the town, but the space is rented by the state.

Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said the upgrade will save the town money in energy costs over time, though how much has not yet been determined.

Court clerk Terry McCafferty said she’s looking forward to having “a consistent temperature” throughout the entire building.

“It’s unregulated. The temperature can fluctuate,” McCafferty said. “It’s very cold in many parts of the building. It can be very hot.”

All state courts will be closed Monday in observance of Veterans Day. For Tuesday through Friday, all business usually conducted in Plaistow will be redirected to the Salem court on Geremonty Drive, according to McCafferty.

There were no cases scheduled to go before the court in Plaistow next week. All Plaistow employees will work out of 10th Circuit Court in Salem during construction.

Though this closing is only for a week, the courthouse was the target of a more permanent closure in 2009 after it was one of seven district courts to be closed by Gov. John Lynch. The move aimed to close a $500 million shortfall anticipated in an upcoming annual budget.

Town and police officials in the towns that use the court fought the move, however, and it was later decided to keep the courthouse open.

In order to keep the courthouse in Plaistow, the town had to waive the state’s annual $42,000 in rent to help save the state money. With around $90,000 in lost revenue so far, Fitzgerald said the amount of extra money Plaistow would have paid to send its court dealings to Brentwood or Salem would be well over $100,000 at this point.

“Community courts are important,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s important that judges and folks can go to courts that are easily accessible, and it’s our hope that we can continue to have a long and very successful relationship with the state’s court administration.”

The HVAC upgrade comes after the town spent $6,000 to give the building “a whole makeover” with replacement doors, new trims and a fresh coat of paint. A new sign is also planned, according to Fitzgerald.

“We’re just taking these steps because we have an affirmative responsibility to maintain and support these properties,” Fitzgerald said. “We want them to not only be comfortable. We want them to be safe, and we want them to be functional and supportive of the court responsibilities that we have in municipal government.”