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Grant awarded to Thurman for moving town court to Harris House

The historic Harris House, located next to the Thurman Town Hall in Athol, may again house the town court and judge’s quarters, if the town accepts a $11,500 grant from the state for building upgrades. The Thurman Town board is scheduled to decide at its meeting March 11 whether or not to accept the money and make needed upgrades. The grant was announced last week. The Harris Hose was built in the 1890s by local resident David Combs.
Photo provided by Persis Granger

The historic Harris House, located next to the Thurman Town Hall in Athol, may again house the town court and judge’s quarters, if the town accepts a $11,500 grant from the state for building upgrades. The Thurman Town board is scheduled to decide at its meeting March 11 whether or not to accept the money and make needed upgrades. The grant was announced last week. The Harris Hose was built in the 1890s by local resident David Combs. Photo provided by Persis Granger

— The town’s justice court may be moving back into its former quarters in the historic Harris House just southeast of the town hall, if the town leaders vote to accept a grant that’s been awarded for that reason.

The town received a letter Tuesday Feb. 25 of a state grant of $11,500 awarded for renovating Harris House so the justice court can be relocated to its first floor. The money would be used to install a new furnace and repair damage caused by the May 2011 flooding of the building’s basement.

Justice Sheila Flanagan wrote the grant application for the upgrades, submitting it to the state court system officials, town Supervisor Evelyn Wood said.

Flanagan and Wood said the grant award was welcome, and provide for court operations that were more convenient, secure and private — if the town board votes to accept the grant.

“The Harris House is a nice, historic building hopefully this grant will get things moving in the right direction,” Wood said.

Until late 2011, the justice court and town judge’s quarters were situated in the Harris House, along with the town assessors. The building was closed down in fall of that year, in an effort to save utility and heating costs.

The town court was moved to the town hall, with the judge’s bench mounted on wheels, so it can be rolled into the general meeting room to conduct town court, which is held at 2 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.

This past year, however, with the town hall being used for other purposes regularly and town operations becoming more complex, the court sessions have run into conflicts — plus the state is raising its standards for court security. An additional separate room is also needed for judge-attorney conferences and attorney-client consultations — all of which the Harris House could provide, Flanagan said. Now Flanagan shares an office that’s routinely busy with other functions, Wood said. Also, town court occasionally conflicts with town board and community meetings, she added.

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