Court Needs Home
By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, December 3, 2004
HAMPTON - The state wants to move the staff and operations of Hampton District Court from Winnacunnet Road to a temporary location within the next two months.
According to Town Manager James Barrington, the state recently sent word of its unofficial plans to the town.
The state began looking for a temporary location after it was reported that the century-old building was infested with fleas and there was mold growing in the basement.
Barrington said one of the sites the state is considering for a temporary courthouse is the old Town Hall.
The town would lease the building to the state for a $1 a year as long as the state pays to get the building up to code.
"The court officials brought up the idea," said Barrington. "We gave them a list of everything that is wrong with that building and they said it's nothing they can't fix."
The old Town Hall, which was built in 1957, is vacant.
"A contractor told us that it would be cheaper to tear down that building than to fix everything that is wrong with it," said Barrington. "I still stand by that. However, if the state wants to spend its own money, we may be able to make arrangements."
The old Town Hall needs a new furnace, air conditioning and has little insulation. It's also not fully handicapped accessible. There is a ramp to get into the building, but no elevator to the second floor.
"It is still leaps ahead of where they are currently located," Barrington said.
The state has also looked at several other locations, including the Maranatha Church on High Street, the vacant former Newick's building on Lafayette Road, office space available in Merrill Industrial Drive and the EBPA building on Drakeside Road.
Barrington said if the Hampton District Court decides to leave its current location it will be breaking its lease agreement with the town, which expires in June 2005.
"There is a lease issue," said Barrington. "There would still be five months on the lease. But this wouldn't be the first time they broke the lease."
Barrington was referring to an automatic escalation clause in the lease agreement which the state decided several years ago they were not going to pay.
The temporary location will be used until a new site, where a consolidated court house combining the Hampton and Exeter courts will be constructed, is chosen.
The new courthouse will be somewhere within the communities it serves.
Those plans are currently on hold for the time being because several local officials don't want to see the Hampton and Exeter courts combined.
Selectman Ginny Bridle-Russell said she's not surprised the court wants to move out of its current location.
"They have to move out," said Bridle-Russell. "The place is not a safe, healthy environment."