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Mold issues force Hampden D.A. to evacuate staff from courthouse

"For too long, this courthouse has not been safe," Gulluni explained.

August 25, 2021

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The Roderick Ireland Courthouse in downtown Springfield was forced to close Wednesday afternoon due to environmental safety hazards. Employees said mold is a growing issue, along with ventilation and air quality concerns that have plagued the building for years.

It started with the Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni evacuating his 45 employees from their office space in this building. He also evacuated six employees from the nearby juvenile court. Shortly before 2 p.m. today, Hampden County Court of Clerks Laura Gentile told us this entire building was being shut down for the day to protect people's health.

"For too long, this courthouse has not been safe," Gulluni explained.

From the holding cells to the courtrooms where the judges sit, the Roderick Ireland courthouse has a mold problem. Seen in the pictures obtained by Western Mass News, white and blueish mold is seen growing throughout the building. While ventilation and air quality concerns have been a problem for decades, Gulluni said Wednesday was the breaking point.

"We've reached a crisis point with this building," Gulluni said.

Gulluni evacuated his staff and vowed they'll enter the building only for trial matters, but even shortly after his announcement, the entire courthouse closed down.

Western Mass News also spoke with Gentile, who had to dismiss jurors earlier in the day due to these environmental issues.

"There was a concern in the courtroom that we were going to impanel and for that reason, I felt it was best to send the jurors home," Gentile added.

We reached out to the Office of the Trial Court in Boston to see what they're doing about it. They sent us a statement that said, in part:

"The Trial Court has contracted an environmental testing firm and is arranging for a licensed mold abatement company to work in the building today to assess and address the issues that have been identified. The Trial Court will determine the ability to reopen once those assessments have been completed."

Hampden County officials are dealing not only with this mold problem, but also the continued shutdown of a separate court location in the Eastfield Mall's old movie theater. That shutdown is also caused by mold.

"We're hoping that we can get back into the mall by next Wednesday, assuming that we're sure that everything is safe," Gentile noted.

All these issues coming to a head after years of complaints and more than one study of the building's safety, but Gulluni felt the people of western Massachusetts shouldn't have had to wait this long.

"It's my belief that if we were farther east, this building would've been replaced a long time ago," Gulluni said.

The Hampden County Registry of Deeds has also announced that they will no longer be operating out of the Roderick Ireland Courthouse because of the conditions. Operations will continue at their Wesfield office, which is located at Westfield city hall on Court Street, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The office noted that all business, including land court and recording plans, will be accepted there.

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