Courthouse Gets Its Death Sentence
By Kyle Stucker
Hampton-North Hampton Patch, March 19, 2013
[The following article is courtesy of Hampton-NorthHampton.patch.com
The Hampton Board of Selectmen got to business Monday during its first post-town meeting session by voting to approve the use of town meeting funds to begin the work to demolish the old district court building.
The board authorized Monday a $5,950 bid for removal of the dilapidated, mold-ridden structure's asbestos, as well as a $24,900 bid to raze and remove the entire building and its foundation. Each vote passed 4-1, with Selectman Ben Moore, a proponent of restoring the vacant structure due to its historical value, the only one voting against using the funds for a town meeting-approved project.
Town Manager Fred Welch said "obviously the asbestos must be removed first" before the demolition can be performed. Welch said the $5,950 bid from One Source Environmental, of Windham, is "frankly a steal" compared to the three other bids submitted for the work, which he said won't include stripping the roof because no asbestos was found during its evaluation.
Selectmen did approve the reservation of $1,450 in town meeting funds in the chance other asbestos is found within the building, though.
J. Mar Enterprises will perform the demolition work, which Welch said will happen after utility companies sign-off that all utilities have been disconnected and removed.
Welch said special consideration will be paid during the demolition to "protect and guarantee the survival" of the Hampton Rotary Club playground and reading area just west of the rear of the courthouse, as well as the survival of the monuments in front of the structure.
"That is very important," said Welch.
Welch said he has approached American Legion Post 35 about utilizing the monuments as part of a war memorial on the razed site of the old town hall, which is adjacent to the courthouse. Welch said there are also discussions about possibly moving the monuments to the veteran's section of the town cemetery, although he said no one is "planning on moving them anywhere at this point in time."
"They're going to be preserved where they are," said Welch.
The old Hampton District Court building, located at the corner of Winnacunnet Road and Academy Avenue, has been closed since 2005 due to black mold and other issues. The structure was erected in 1873, and at different times has also housed the old Hampton Grammar School, American Legion the Hampton Fire Department.
The town has been contemplating options for the old courthouse's reuse for years, although ideas like a community center, fire station and town office building for Hampton Parks and Recreation and other departments have been ruled out because officials have estimated it would cost $800,000 alone in demolition and renovation hard costs just to make the building usable.
Individuals will photograph the inside of the building for historical purposes before its demolition, according to Welch. Antique glass insulators used for the building's fire alarm system have been salvaged, as have historical fire department signs. Welch said other salvageable and uncontaminated historical items will also be removed before the building is demolished, but not before the asbestos mitigation is performed, he said.
"It will be very difficult to empty due to the stairs in the building, but we can empty it," said Welch, who said many of the chairs and other items in the building are "absolutely filthy."