By Patrick Cronin
The Hampton Union -- Herald Sunday, Sunday, July 16, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
A committee charged with finding the location for a joint Hampton/Exeter district court is about two weeks away from making its final decision.
The committee met Thursday night at Rockingham County Superior Court and narrowed the choices to four locations.
Commissioner Donald Hill, of the state Department of Administrative Services, said he would like to have a location selected by the end of the month to prepare for the upcoming budget cycle.
Of the four top choices, the only land that would be donated to the state is a three-acre parcel of land off Route 101 that is owned by the town of Hampton.
Selectmen there voted to offer the land to the state after they decided to withdraw the town's previous offer to donate the land where the old Hampton district court sits on Winnacunnet Road.
The only problem with the land is there is currently no access to it, but Hampton Town Attorney Mark Gearreald told the committee the town is investigating obtaining a nearby piece of the land that would provide the necessary access.
Another property being considered abuts the three-acre parcel of land and is privately owned. However, if the two parcels could be combined it would provide about 20 acres and the needed access.
A third parcel being considered is land owned by the state Department of Transportation on Route 101/85 in Exeter. The question on that land is whether the state would be interested in selling the land or swapping it for another parcel or parcels.
The last property being considered is owned by Susan Conway and is off Route 101 in Stratham.
The state met with Conway and discussed the possibility of signing a long-term lease for the building that currently houses portions of Seacoast Media Group.
The Stratham property includes a 28,833-square-foot facility on 7.9 acres of land off Portsmouth Avenue in Stratham.
Hill said the main issue with that location would be cost, but the committee has set up another meeting with Conway to discuss the terms of such a lease agreement.
While the committee didn't make a decision as to where the new joint courthouse will go, it did decide where it won't go.
The committee rejected an offer of donated land off Route 107 in Seabrook for a new courthouse.
Seabrook voters two years ago approved donating land to the state for a courthouse, even though this past year they rejected an article for an $8 million bond to build the court facility. The bond would have been paid by the state and cost taxpayers nothing.
The committee expressed concerns about a Seabrook location because it would be a long drive for towns west of Exeter. If the new courthouse is going to be built, it should be constructed off Route 101 between Hampton and Exeter, since those two towns are the two biggest users of the court, committee members agreed.