By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, April 15, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
EXETER -- Selectmen from Hampton and Exeter will meet Monday night to discuss strategy to keep separate district courts in their towns.
The boards are opposed to the courts being combined, as has been ordered by the Legislature.
Hampton Selectmen Chairman Jim Workman said the boards hope to come up with a game plan.
Currently, the state has funding in the budget to construct a combined Hampton-Exeter court.
Those plans were put on hold after former Sen. Russell Prescott, R-Kingston, sponsored an amendment that temporarily prevented consolidation of the courts. But that amendment expires this year.
The main reasons why town officials are against a combined courthouse is because of location.
Police chiefs from both towns say having one courthouse is going to cause problems, including added overtime costs for officer coverage, travel expenses and lack of police coverage in the sending towns.
They say separate court locations minimize these problems.
In addition, Hampton and Exeter officials say that both towns have enough business to sustain individual courthouses.
However, state Rep. Mike O'Neil of Hampton said in October that if the towns want to keep the courts separate, one of the towns is going to have to come up with the money and offer to build a courthouse.
He added that the Prescott amendment only bought the towns some time to decide on what they want to do and if nothing is decided then the courts will be combined.
Exeter selectmen recently wrote a letter to the Chief Justice John Broderick reminding him of the town's stance on the subject.
Hampton selectmen have done the same.