By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, March 15, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON - Hampton District Court is going to be moving to a temporary location in Seabrook.
Seabrook Town Manager Fred Welch said the court will be in a vacant commercial condominium behind Ace Hardware on Lafayette Road.
Laura Kiernan, communications director of the courts, said the move will occur in three months.
She said state representatives will have to work to clear up a technicality in the law that configures New Hampshire's district court system. The law states that the district court for the towns of this region must be in Hampton.
Getting employees out of the current Hampton District Court was "very high on the priority list" for state Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick, said Kiernan.
"He wants those employees in a safe, healthy environment."
The Hampton District Court building does not meet standards for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has been infested with fleas, and is showing mold on the courtroom ceiling.
The court will be in Seabrook until a new courthouse can be built or found in a location yet to be determined.
The state Court Accreditation Committee voted Friday to move the operations. That ended months of speculation on where the court would end up after the committee voted in November to find a new location. The committee said the century-old courthouse on Winnacunnet Road in Hampton was unsafe and not handicapped accessible.
Peter Goodwin, administrator of the Bureau of Court Facilities, said the Seabrook location was the best for the court on a temporary basis.
Chief Justice Broderick said they looked at three sites, one in Hampton and two in Seabrook.
The best location was the site of the firehouse in Seabrook, but it was taken off the list because of summer traffic concerns.
The site in Hampton was the American Legion Hall. Broderick said that location wasn't handicapped-accessible and was "trading one problem for another."
"That left us with the site behind the shopping center in Seabrook," said Broderick.
Broderick said the move to Seabrook doesn't mean that is where a permanent courthouse will be built. He also said he's not opposed to seeing a new court built in Hampton.
"We are moving the court to Seabrook only on a temporary basis because there are no sites available in Hampton," said Broderick. "The current building is unsafe and not handicapped-accessible."
Employees at Hampton District Court said they look forward to the move.
"Everyone is upbeat about the move," said Hampton District Clerk John Clark. "The health problems in this place get worse in the summertime. We are also glad to be moving to a handicapped facility."
Hampton officials said they will lobby the state to chose a permanent location for the court in Hampton.
"At this point I don't have an opinion on it," said Town Manager James Barrington. "I'm sorry to see it go, even on a temporary basis. We are more interested in the long haul and having the permanent court right here in town."
"It's not a terrible surprise," said Selectman Jim Workman. "They have been lobbying very hard. I think we put in a good-faith effort, and I don't know what else we could have done."
Hampton has offered a free, permanent site at the current courthouse'slocation and former town office on Winnacunnet Road.
Last year, Seabrook voters passed a warrant question to allow a courthouse to be built on town-owned land off Route 107.