By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, February 6, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, is sponsoring a bill to purchase land off routes 101 and 85 in Exeter to house a joint Hampton/Exeter District Court.
Clark held an informational meeting last week to discuss the location and the bill at the Hampton Town Hall. Her Senate District 24 includes Hampton, Hampton Falls and North Hampton.
The bill, co-sponsored by Hampton State representatives Susan Kepner and Tom McGuirk, seeks a $200,000 bond to make the purchase. The land is owned by the state Department of Transportation, which has no interest in donating the land for a courthouse.
The location was one of three chosen last summer by a committee charged with finding a location for a joint court. The others were the former Seacoast Media Group building off Route 101 in Stratham and a three-acre parcel off Route 101 owned by the town of Hampton.
While the committee didn't make a decision as to where the new joint courthouse will go, it did decide where it won't go.
The committee rejected an offer of donated land off Route 107 in Seabrook.
Seabrook voters two years ago approved donating land to the state for a courthouse, even though this past year they rejected an article for an $8 million bond to build the courthouse.
The bond would have been paid by the state and cost taxpayers nothing.
The committee expressed concerns about a Seabrook location because it would be a long drive for towns west of Exeter.
Committee members agreed a new courthouse should be constructed off Route 101 between Hampton and Exeter, since those two towns are the two biggest users of the court.
The search for a new joint courthouse began after the state and the towns of Exeter and Hampton were forced set up temporary courthouses in those towns.
The Hampton District Court had to be closed two years ago because of health concerns and because the second floor courtroom had no wheelchair access. The state signed a three-year lease to temporarily house the Hampton District Court in Seabrook.
The Exeter District Court moved out of its downtown location two years ago, also for health reasons. It is currently sharing space with the Rockingham County Superior Court in Brentwood.