By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 6, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- The town's offer to donate the land where the old Hampton District Court sits to house a new joint Hampton/Exeter District Court is officially off the table.
Selectmen unanimously voted Monday night to withdraw the town's previous offer.
"I think it's a hard sell for the taxpayers to give the state of New Hampshire a prime piece of real estate," said board Chairwoman Ginny Bridle-Russell.
Commissioner Donald Hill of the state Department of Administrative Services recently sent out letters to towns interested in having the courthouse within their borders.
In the letter, Hill said preference would be given to sites that are donated, served by public transportation and that have sewer and water available.
Hampton was one of two towns that met all three criteria.
Town Manager James Barrington asked the board to reaffirm its vote in order to make a formal offer at the state's June 30 meeting to discuss the location of the future court.
While several selectmen pointed out the benefits of having the court in town, such as savings in police overtime and added police presence in the community, they also discussed the negatives.
If the town was going to donate the land, it would take up the entire back parking lot that abuts Hampton Academy.
Added traffic to the area would also affect the school, critics said.
Hampton State Rep. Mike O'Neil agreed, contending the land could be put to better use by the town, especially with talk of a community center and a new library.
With Hampton's offer off the table, Seabrook is the only town that has made a formal offer.
Seabrook voters two years ago approved donating land off Route 107 to the state for a courthouse.
Selectmen said while their offer is off the table, they still do not want to see a new district court in Seabrook.
"While I'm not excited about a district court being built (where the old courthouse sits), I'm not excited about it being in Seabrook either," said Selectman Ben Moore.