Go For A Combined Courthouse

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"An Editorial"

Hampton Union, Friday, June 24, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

The communities that use the Hampton and Exeter district courts should drop the idea of keeping the courts separate and move forward with all possible speed toward finding a site and having the state construct a new building that is both efficient and healthy.

Workers from the Exeter court were moved months ago to the Superior Court in Brentwood to get them out the "sick" building where they had been.

But workers in Hampton remain in a building that is moldy and should be condemned. It is also not handicapped-accessible.

They should be moved to the temporary location in Seabrook as soon as possible.

When that happens, Hampton police will find a way to deal with the situation, just as all area police will find ways to adapt once a combined court is built.

It can be done. Across the state line in Newburyport, one courthouse is now handling the business that used to be done in three courts - those that had existed in Amesbury, Newburyport and Ipswich.

The state has indicated it will pay for the construction of a joint Hampton/Exeter court building, but if the towns want to keep their individual district courts, they would have to pay the cost of facilities adequate to handle the security and legal needs of these two very busy courts.

Taxpayers in Hampton or Exeter should not be forced to pay for court facilities, particularly if there is a deal on the table to have the state foot the bill.

A consolidated court located off Route 101, or a similarly accessible roadway, could actually cut time lost by police in some of the communities that use the current courts. After all, Exeter, Newfields and Newmarket police are currently traveling to Brentwood for district court trials and that hasn't, to our knowledge, created serious hardships.

Seabrook has made a very generous offer to house a new court facility, but the problem is that the town is on the edge of what would be a new, larger district. A central location would ease the pain during the transition.

This argument has been brewing for nearly a decade, and New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick has made it abundantly clear he wants to see it resolved.

Failure of selectmen in the affected communities to make a decision will ultimately take the choice out of their hands, and we believe it would be better to take an active role in deciding where a consolidated court would be sited rather than let the state take full control of the project.

- The Hampton Union

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