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.