Funds aids court plan
MILFORD – A capital budget signed by Gov. Maggie Hassan last week has money for final design plans for a new Milford Circuit Court.
The court and a new state motor vehicle substation would be located on the site of the former state police Troop B barracks in west Milford, off Route 101.
House Bill 25 for fiscal year 2016-17 has a total of $365,000 for architectural and engineering fees, to draw up final plans before the courthouse project goes out to bid.
Six years ago, Milford was one of nine district courts slated for closure, part of Gov. John Lynch’s plan to offset a multimillion-dollar state budget deficit.
Milford’s 9th Circuit Court is now located in rented space on Elm Street, next to Sal’s Pizza.
Intensive lobbying efforts help block the closure plan, with local officials, especially Milford’s, saying the planned move of the Milford court into
the new Merrimack courthouse would result in an unacceptable burden for police and for residents because of the increased travel time, and for police, increased overtime costs.
Sen. Gary Daniels, a Milford selectman, is chairman of the Senate Capital Budget Committee, and he had filed another bill that would have paid for the entire construction costs.
On Monday he said he hadn’t expected that bill to pass, but used the bill to bring awareness of the need for a new court.
The new capital budget is excellent news for Milford and all its surrounding towns, he said. "It’s a great thing, especially for law enforcement … I will be pressuring administrative services to carry on" with the plans.
Executive Councilor David Wheeler, R-Milford, said the funding represents a commitment to a Milford court on the part of the state.
"Hopefully in two years" there will be money for construction of the court and motor vehicle substation, he said. "We’ve got the ball down the road another few lengths."
The Milford court takes cases from Amherst, Brookline, Lyndeborough, Mason, Milford, Mont Vernon and Wilton.In 2009, the state Department of Administrative Services ordered the closure and consolidation of several courthouses, including Milford, after the Legislature failed to fund them.
Then the Milford court was given a six-month reprieve provided the seven towns came up with money for rent and nonpersonnel expenses. When Amherst selectmen voted not to pay that town’s share, Milford selectmen paid for both towns.
Then in 2012 state officials agreed to move the court to the Meadwbrook Road site and allocated $50,000 for a feasibility study and preliminary design costs.
The governor’s capital budget for 2016-17 also includes $16.6 million for a new Merrimack County courthouse and $300,000 for architectural and engineering costs for a new Hampton Circuit Court.
There is also money for a 50-bed addition to the state Veteran’s Home, for its dementia unit and for expanding the Piscataqua River turning basin to allow larger vessels to navigate through Portsmouth Harbor.