Funds for new Milford courthouse available in state budget

MILFORD – There is good news for Milford in the state budget legislators passed last week.

The capital portion of the spending plan includes at least $4.5 million to fully fund building a new Milford courthouse.

Beginning in 2009 when a statewide court consolidation plan had Milford district court moving into the new Merrimack courthouse, local officials have been fighting to keep the court here.

“It’s been a long, long time,” said Executive Councilor David Wheeler, R-Milford, who had pushed for the court and the motor vehicle substation to remain local.

By 2012, that looked like a sure thing, with state officials agreeing to move the court to Meadowbrook Drive on the site of the old Troop B state police headquarters.

Then in 2013, state officials made a new women’s prison in Goffstown their priority, and the project was put on hold.

Gary Daniels, a Milford selectman and state senator, said last week the governor seems to fully support the plan, and he hopes the Milford court can go out to bid as early as this fall.

The court is now in rented space on Elm Street, and before that, it was in rented space at The Meeting Place on Route 101 in Amherst.

The state pays $100,000 a year for rent and maintenance, Wheeler said, and bonding for a new building is more economical.

Local officials had argued that moving the court to Merrimack would deprive people, especially those with low incomes, of easy access. And because of the longer travel time and increased overtime for police, it would be hard on the budgets of Milford, Wilton and Lyndeborough.

The courthouse would be at 4 Meadowbrook Drive, and the old Troop B building would be torn down. The building would also house some state police offices and the DMV substation, which is there now.

Daniels said there is also money in the state Department of Transportation budget to have the substation open five days a week instead of two days. He noted there is often a line of people waiting outside in the morning.

A court design shows modern security features, with two courtrooms, one for juvenile and family court, a secure area where police can park and load or unload prisoners, and separate entrances for the judge and defendants.

Moving the facility out of the community would have been a disaster, Milford selectmen’s Chairman Mark Fougere said.

“It is a great news and long overdue,” he said. “The Police Department’s easy access to the court saves time, money and offers numerous advantages over other options.”

Milford district court, the 9th Circuit Court, takes cases from Amherst, Brookline, Lyndeborough, Mason, Milford, Mont Vernon and Wilton.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.

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