Town to Explore Costs for Razing, Rehabbing Court House

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By Kyle Stucker, Editor/Publisher

HamptonNorthHampton.Patch, Thursday, May 10, 2012

[The following article is courtesy of HamptonNorthHampton.Patch]

At least one warrant article could be coming for next year's town meeting.

The town of Hampton will soon seek firm estimates for bulldozing and renovating the old Hampton district court building so town officials can use the information as the basis for one or two town meeting warrant articles.

Town Manager Fred Welch told selectmen Monday he would reach out in the next few weeks to two-to-three construction firms to "get as cheap an estimate as possible within our current budgetary guidelines" for the project, which he said is important but has no "rush."

Welch said the real problem with the future of the crumbling building is "cost," as previous estimates for turning the building into a fire station pegged the work at roughly $200 per square foot without considering the installation of utilities, heat and an elevator.

A new estimate based off an office space or community center use would likely be different than the fire station-related costs, and Welch said it would help inform the town as it prepares for the 2013 town meeting.

"I firmly believe the town should be given an opportunity to express its opinion for two warrant articles," said Welch, referencing one article for demolition and another for bonding the courthouse's overhaul.

Estimates for demolition of the building have previously been around $1 million. The Hampton Parks and Recreation Department has been among multiple departments and groups that have mentioned the building could provide additional room for town departments cramped on space, should the buildling be renovated.

Selectman Ben Moore said he also thinks an article of some kind "should go to the town," although he said the town should "firm up" the estimates before doing so.

Dick Nichols, the vice chairman of the selectmen, agreed that "a more administrative use may be less" than the $200-per-square-foot estimate, although he cautioned the board against committing now to a warrant article.

"With all of the information we have in front of us, I would be opposed to $1 million, selectmen-sponsored article because we don't know all the other priorities we're looking at," said Nichols.

Nichols said he doesn't yet know how courthouse articles would "fit in" with the town's infrastructure needs and if either option would be "reasonable" to voters. He said sponsoring an article now would be "premature," as the board hasn't yet completed its prioritized capital improvements plan or forecasted the tax rate as driven by the CIP, let alone the courthouse plans.

Selectmen will continue to work on the upcoming year's goals and anticipated project funding requests. The board discussed its goals during Monday's meeting, although the document isn't yet finalized.

The goals are expected to be part of the discussion during the next selectmen meeting on Monday, May 14, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

Related Topics: Ben Moore, Dick Nichols, Fred Welch, Hampton Selectmen, Local Government, Public Safety, old courthouse, and old district court house.

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