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  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    People file in and check the docket at the Hillsborough County Superior Court on Spring Street in Nashua on Thursday. Hillsborough County Superior Court has combined its Manchester and Nashua sites temporarily while renovation work continues.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Hillsborough County Superior Court has combined its Manchester and Nashua sites temporarily while renovation work continues.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Kathy Swenson, a receptionist for Hillsborough County Superior Court North, is now working at Nashua's Spring Street court. The Nashua and Manchester locations have combined in Nashua for a planned 18 months.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    A visitor to the courthouse on Spring Street in Nashua checks the docket Thursday. Hillsborough County has combined its Manchester and Nashua courthouses temporarily while renovation work continues.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Superior courts doubling up at Nashua site

NASHUA – The north branch of the Hillsborough County Department of Corrections makes for a pretty decent roommate, at least so far.

The Manchester version of the court moved most of its operations to the southern branch of the county Superior Court on Spring Street in Nashua in the days between Christmas and New Year’s.

“The physical move went extremely well, I think,” Hillsborough South clerk Marshall Buttrick said. “It’s just going according to plan.”

So far, the shared quarters haven’t been a problem, according to court officials.

“It’s been going great. There haven’t really been any issues,” Mike Scanlon, deputy clerk of the southern district, said. “It’s really been a smooth transition.”

The test, though, begins next week when Hillsborough North holds its first jury trials at its new location.

The 300 Chestnut St. courthouse in Manchester is scheduled to reopen July 1, 2011, after asbestos abatement and a full interior remodeling project are completed, according to Laura Kiernan, the state court system’s communications director.

Meanwhile, clerks, judges, bailiffs, attorneys, petitioners and defendants are splitting space on Spring Street in Nashua.

Hillsborough South hearings and trials will take up the third floor of the courtroom and Hillsborough North will be stationed on the second floor.

Each court has separate counters in the clerk’s office on the first floor, and the Hillsborough North metal detector will be moved to Nashua so two lines of people can be searched for weapons simultaneously.

Hillsborough County Sheriff James Hardy, who oversees the court’s security officers, wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Hillsborough North clerk John Safford said operations inside the courthouse have run smoothly, but the travel to Nashua for petitioners and most of his employees can be a pain.

“It’s just a new way of doing things for us and so far, so good. It’s just another adjustment,” he said. “But it’s not like we’re going to Colebrook or something. And it’s short term for us.”

Police from the northern part of the county also have to account for extra travel time, Hillsborough County Attorney Bob Walsh pointed out, which may be a factor in municipal budgets this year.

“It’s more difficult for citizens of Manchester and lawyers in Manchester and, of course, for police.”

That commute could be significant. While Manchester residents have a roughly 20 mile ride ahead of them, police and witnesses from the town of Hillsborough will have to drive about 40 miles.

More than 30 county attorney employees have taken over a portion of the second floor of Indian Head Plaza across the street from their southern colleagues’ existing office on Temple Street.

So far, parking hasn’t been an issue either. The lot behind the courthouse is reserved for employees, who leave about 30 spaces available for the public on a first-come, first-serve basis. Another 188 spaces are reserved for jurors.

Parking has been fine, although Hillsborough North jury trials begin next week, along with the year’s first grand jury sitting late this week, Walsh said.

“That will be a test of parking in the area,” Walsh said.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com.