By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, May 20, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
SEABROOK - A letter addressed to Hampton and Exeter selectmen from the speaker of New Hampshire House of Representatives regarding the possible future location of a district court has Seabrook officials seeing red.
Town Manager Fred Welch obtained a copy of the letter that was written by Speaker Douglas Scamman of Stratham.
In the letter, Scamman assured officials in Hampton and Exeter that Peter Goodwin of the Department of Administrative Services is "in support of a consolidated court off Route 101 between Exeter and Hampton, and is anxious to move ahead."
Goodwin was not available for comment.
Scamman's statement angered Seabrook officials who fear such a statement might mean they are being left out of the search for a new court site and talks between Hampton and Exeter selectmen and state lawmakers.
Seabrook has already offered to donate 14 acres of town-owned land on Route 107, near the Seabrook Greyhound Park, to the state for a courthouse that would combine the functions of the district courts in Hampton and Exeter.
Scamman wrote the letter in the aftermath of a meeting held last month between Hampton and Exeter selectmen, where he was asked by both boards to inquire about the current status of the courts and whether a deal had already been made between the state and Seabrook.
Both towns, which had been advocating along with local police chiefs for separate courts, started to think that if the state is going to build only one court they would rather see it within their towns rather than Seabrook.
As a result, they joined forces to come up with another site to counter Seabrook's offer.
Welch said they are not trying to start a battle with Hampton and Exeter. If anyone is trying to start a battle it's Exeter and Hampton selectmen by not including them or other towns in the talks.
"We made an offer in good faith to help the court out," said Welch. "Where ever the court ends up is the state's decision."
Welch said he doesn't understand why both towns are adamantly against having a court in Seabrook.
"It sounds like North vs. South to me," said Welch. "What do they have against Seabrook? We offered the site in our town just to help the court out. You'd think we are being accused of mass murder."
"I took great umbrage with that letter because it's leaving all the other towns - including Seabrook - out of it," said Seabrook Selectman Richard McCann. "It shouldn't be one or two towns making a decision."
Seabrook selectmen voted to send another letter to the state reminding it of the town's offer to provide land for a combined court.
Seabrook Selectmen Chairman Karen Knight said she was upset that Seabrook's state representatives have not been invited to meetings between Hampton and Exeter regarding the courts.
McCann said Hampton and Exeter's proposed site in the 101/95 area could create a lot of traffic issues.
He also said it doesn't have the support of police chiefs, who would still like to see two courts and not one.
Hampton Selectman Jim Workman said the plan is to involve other communities in their talks about the future of a courthouse.
Hampton Town Manager James Barrington and Exeter Town Manager Russ Dean have scheduled a meeting with Stratham Town Manager Paul Deschaine and North Hampton Town Administrator Mike Pardue to compare notes on the available property in the neighborhood of the intersection of all four communities.
Hampton and Exeter selectmen will be meeting again to discuss the court on June 13.