Courting a Condo: Seabrook Selected Site For Hampton District Court

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By John Deming, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, March 18, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]

HAMPTON -- A commercial condominium in Seabrook, not the American Legion Hall in Hampton, will serve as the temporary site for Hampton District Court.

The move is expected to take place in three months.

State officials were also considering moving the court to the American Legion Post #35 building in Hampton.

Legion Post #35 Commander Ralph Fatello had hoped the state would choose the Legion Hall, because the revenue generated from the rent would help pay to spruce up the hall and make it a welcoming place for Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The state Court Accreditation Committee voted Friday to move operations to Seabrook.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick toured the Hampton District Court last year and found it "very disturbing." It is not handicapped-accessible, has mold, and has been reported to be infested with fleas. The building has also been said to cause medical problems for employees.

The Legion Hall was taken off the table as an option because it wasn't handicapped-accessible, something Fatello disputes.

"We have handicapped accessibility at the post; we've always had it," Fatello said. "Whoever let that out is not very knowledgeable about what the Post is all about."

Fatello said he thinks it is a loss for the town.

"Not only did we just lose a lot in the town on March 8, we lost the courthouse," he said.

Fatello said that the Legion — which has hoped to raise $75,000 to $100,000 to revitalize the center for young Veterans — put other fundraising activities on hold during the process.

"The sad part of this whole story is we're back to square one," he said. "This thing was like a godsend; it fell out of the sky into our laps."

A young Veteran who was shot twice in Iraq entered the hall once and all that Fatello had to offer him was a folding chair, he said. He is hoping to raise money for a pool table, television and other things to make a more comfortable atmosphere.

Fatello also expressed discontent with the fact that he had met with state officials a number of times and offered several tours of the hall, but no one picked up a phone to call him and tell him they had decided to go with the Seabrook site.

"We had a goal set, and it was a noble and honorable goal to build a place for these young Veterans to come back to," he said. "And they knew that, so the fact that they couldn't pick up a phone and let me know is disheartening."

Fatello said he didn't find out that a decision had been made until he read it in the newspaper.

"I had to do a double-take," he said. "I guess I just do business differently."

Still, Fatello said he wishes the court and its staff the best of luck at the new building. He is hoping to begin other fundraising efforts soon. The hall is still being rented out for functions, he said.

"I guess we'll go back to the drawing table and see what we can come up with," he said.

The Seabrook site, located behind Ace Hardware on Lafayette Road, will serve only as a temporary location. A permanent location for a courthouse is still being sought.

Hampton officials have said they will lobby to get a permanent site chosen in town.

To make the temporary move to Seabrook, state representatives will have to try to get around a legal technicality which states the region's district court must be in Hampton.

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