By Kate Begiebing
Hampton Union, Tuesday, April 19, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
EXETER -- Some support emerged to construct a building to house the Hampton and Exeter district courts near the junction of Route 101 and Interstate 95, during a joint session of selectmen from the two towns on Monday night.
The idea prompted favorable commentary from many at the meeting, including Exeter Selectman Joe Pace, N.H. House Doug Scamman of Stratham and his wife, Stella, a state representative from Stratham, and Hampton Town Manager James Barrington.
A specific plot of land has not yet been identified.
Both district courts are in disrepair and have been temporally moved. A bill passed 15 years ago, and still pending, authorizes the merger of Exeter District Court with Hampton District Court. Both the courts have become unhealthy for employees and the Hampton District Court building does not meet the standards for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Selectmen have a limited amount of time to make a decision because in July 2006 state lawmakers will make a decision if the towns do not come up with a plan that suits the Legislature. The selectmen were urged to come up with a plan by state Sen. Maggie Wood Hassan of Exeter.
"Make some proposals soon. Give the state something to react to," she said Monday night.
A location around Route 101 and Interstate 95 was well received because of its easy access. The court building would serve 14 towns.
Exeter Police Chief Richard Kane said his main concern was location. He was concerned with officers having to leave town for court and having to pay his other officers overtime to cover the town while they were gone.
Hampton Police Bill Wrenn expressed concern that in the summer Hampton has more people using the court. He said anywhere from "20, 25, or 30 people on any given day for an arraignment" pass through the court, he said.
State Rep. Stella Scamman suggested talking with judges and seeing what their input would be. Judges would have good insight into things such as the size of the building and how many court rooms are needed, she said.
Kane stated the building would have to be the right size to accommodate growth in the area.
"If you don't build it correctly, it will be worse," he said.
"Do it right the first time."