By Susan Morse
Hampton Union, Tuesday, April 26, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
SEABROOK - Although the Seabrook Board of Selectmen was not invited to a joint meeting last week of its Hampton and Exeter counterparts to discuss a location for a new, permanent district court, the town intends to be among the big three in state considerations.
"I will have a proposal for the board before long," said Seabrook Town Manager Fred Welch.
He would not elaborate on the proposal, except to say it will address the court issue.
Hampton and Exeter selectmen, along with state Reps. Douglas Scamman, Stella Scamman, Carl Robertson, April Mason and Rogers Johnson, as well as state Sen. Maggie Hassan, met on Monday, April 18, in Exeter to discuss a potential merger of the Hampton and Exeter district courts and to locate it somewhere between the two towns.
The meeting was between Hampton and Exeter selectmen because that's where the two current courthouses are located, said Hampton Town Manager James Barrington.
State representatives from Hampton also were not invited. When Hampton officials got to Exeter, they found that town's delegation there, said Barrington.
Hampton Selectmen Chairman Jim Workman has since sent a letter of apology to the local state representatives, according to Barrington.
However, Seabrook already has a site for the state.
Town voters in 2004 approved the donation of 14 acres of land for a court building on Route 107 near the Seabrook Greyhound Park, off Interstate 95.
Seabrook also recently was successful in approving a temporary location for the district court on Route 1 in town.
The court, currently located on Winnacunnet Road in Hampton, serves the towns of Hampton, North Hampton, Hampton Falls, South Hampton, Seabrook and the Interstate 95 corridor from the Massachusetts border to Greenland.
In December, state Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick expressed his dissatisfaction with conditions at the century-old building and said a temporary location had to be found until a new courthouse could be built.
The Exeter District Court, now temporarily located in the Rockingham County Superior Court in Brentwood, also needs a new facility.
The state wants one courthouse to serve both the Exeter and Hampton areas, and has given a deadline of July 2006 to come up with individual sites or face a merger by default.
At last week's meeting, Hampton and Exeter officials were in agreement on not wanting a combined courthouse in Seabrook.
"It's certainly not centrally located for a Hampton District Court," Barrington said on Monday. "(Locating it) on Route 107 near the dog track is inconvenient to everybody except Seabrook."
"I think they're entitled to their opinion," said Seabrook Selectwoman Cora Stockbridge. "I want it here."