Bar News - October 21, 2015
Court News: Merrimack County Seeks to Expand Existing Courthouse
By: Dan Wise
Merrimack County officials are mounting an 11th-hour effort to rehabilitate and expand the historic but inadequate county courthouse building on North Main Street in Concord, as a substitute for an already-approved plan to build a new courthouse on state-owned land on Hazen Drive.
The state’s capital budget includes $16.6 million to build the new courthouse on a lot adjoining the Administrative Office of the Courts and the NH Supreme Court building on Hazen Drive. But county officials, as well as Concord city leaders, would prefer to keep the courthouse, and the foot traffic it generates, downtown.
At a Senate Capital Budget Committee meeting Oct. 6, Merrimack County Administrator Stephen Marro said the county, in partnership with developer Stephen Duprey, could build an addition to the 163-year-old courthouse. Marro said office space in the adjacent TD Bank building could house county offices displaced by building the courthouse addition.
NH Supreme Court Chief Justice Linda Dalianis urged lawmakers to stick with the plan authorized by the capital budget. She said the need to replace the existing facility is urgent and that the Hazen Drive site offers the least complications.
County officials said they would work to address questions – including how the court would operate during construction, parking issues, and realistic cost estimates – and report back to lawmakers in December. Steve Lorentzen, who oversees court facilities for the NH Department of Administrative Services, said the state is proceeding with reviews of architects’ proposals coming in for a courthouse on Hazen Drive.