BOSTON - A means for funding a regional justice center in New Bedford has cleared a major hurdle.

State Representative Antonio Cabral says a bond authorization bill passed through the House Ways and Means Committee with $123.5 million intact for a one-stop courthouse in the city.

Representative Cabral tells WBSM News because of New Bedford's aging and outdated courthouses, the city has lost a lot of court business to surrounding communities.

"For example, the criminal trials in the Superior Court have been moved to Fall River precisely because our court in New Bedford does not have the proper securities that are needed for today's needs," said Cabral. "We can't allow that to continue to happen."

Cabral says a justice center would bring all of New Bedford's court needs under one roof, instead of having them spread out across the city.

"I mean, the Housing Court right now is in a strip mall in the north end. I think they've done a good job of maintaining the court there in that particular place, but I think savings-wise it's not very efficient for the state to be running four or five buildings rather than one building."

Cabral says centralizing New Bedford's court systems will not only save the state money, but will boost the local economy through construction jobs and increased foot traffic through the city's downtown.

Rep. Cabral also added $1 million for two feasibility studies for capital projects in downtown New Bedford: the first to explore the potential construction of a UMass Dartmouth Law School campus, and a second for a police and fire department headquarters.

“With a new regional justice center designated for downtown New Bedford, an accompanying UMass Dartmouth Law School facility could create a unique partnership between the school and the court system,” explained Rep. Cabral.

The general government bond bill, as reported, will also authorize $1 million for a Cape Verdean Community Center in New Bedford. Reauthorizations in the bill, initially secured by Rep. Cabral in 2014, include—

  • $2 million for capital improvements at the Zeiterion Theatre;
  • $500,000 for renovations at the former Thompson Street School building;
  • $3 million for capital improvements at the Orpheum Theatre;
  • and $300,000 for repairs at the Dennison Memorial Community Center.

The bill moves to the Senate for debate.