Court Plan Gets No Help

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State Won't Give Up Land for Project

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, November 27, 2007

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

HAMPTON -- The state will not be giving up its land in town to construct a combined Hampton and Exeter District Court.

Town Manager Fred Welch told selectmen Monday night the state Department of Transportation nixed the town's request to declare land the state owns in Hampton off the east side of the Interstate 95 as surplus.

The town has been working with the state Department of Administrative Services in trying to secure the land as the site for the new joint court house.

"The state DOT has declined any offer to cooperate in this effort," Welch said.

Welch said it appears the state doesn't want "to part with a piece of land they have no foreseeable use for. They are not using it and doesn't have any plans to use it," Welch said. "It is just big enough for the courthouse and the parking that goes with it."

The news means selectmen will hold off in moving forward with a proposal that would have helped the state construct the courthouse.

The board was considering asking voters in March to approve a $7 million bond article to construct a courthouse on that land. Welch said the bond would have been paid by the state via a lease agreement with the town. The bond would have cost the taxpayers nothing, and the town would have owned the building after it was paid for.

Welch said a joint Hampton-Exeter district courthouse is currently next in line for funding in the state's next biennium budget.

"But if we don't have a peace of land or we can't acquire a piece of land, then we may be passed over again," Welch said.

A few years ago, the court was also on top of the list for courthouse projects, but once the Exeter District Court was moved to Rockingham County Superior Court in Brentwood and Hampton District Court was moved to a location in Seabrook, another court with more pressing need rose to the top.

The state had previously rejected an offer of donated land off Route 107 in Seabrook for a new courthouse.

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