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January 14. 2013 11:45PM

Nashua to be given first dibs on courthouse

NASHUA - With the city being given first crack at purchasing the old courthouse on Walnut Street, one alderman says Nashua should consider the building as a future site for the city's health department.

The health department is now at 18 Mulberry St., but according to Alderman-at-Large David Deane, that building is well beyond its life expectancy.

"It is in sad shape," Deane said. "The former courthouse could be an excellent location for them."

Last week, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said she would like to see the old courthouse demolished, and the area near the Walnut Street oval revitalized. But before the courthouse is sold, Deane said the Board of Aldermen should have a discussion about the future of the property.

The 1970s building is currently assessed at $1.4 million, with the land assessed at about $174,000, according to records on file at City Hall. The mayor has said she is not prepared to spend any money to purchase the building.

Stephen Lorentzen of the Bureau of Court Facilities at the New Hampshire Department of Administrative Services said the city will be given an opportunity to purchase the courthouse before it is officially listed on the market later this winter. The courthouse closed more than a year ago and moved its operations to the Hillsborough County Courthouse on Spring Street.

If Nashua officials are not interested in buying the 25 Walnut St. site, Lorentzen said it will be placed on the market around the end of February.

"The difficulty with a courthouse is that it is set up as a courthouse," said Lorentzen.

Deane said the city should consider negotiating with state officials to purchase the building.

"The Walnut Street location is in an area of the city where a good portion of the health department's clients live, and it has ample parking and is (handicapped) compliant," said Deane.

While there could be some challenges retrofitting the courthouse, Deane said it is worth investigating.

Lozeau said previously that she envisions the city's Division of Public Health and Community Services being housed at the site of the current Bronstein Apartments, a public housing development that she believes should eventually be torn down so that better housing can be found for the 48 low-income families.

Deane questioned the cost of building a new health department facility when the old courthouse could be converted.

"I think that we - as a policy-setting board - should have some say in what is going on. We should explore all of our options," he said, adding the Bronstein Apartments complex should be left alone.

khoughton@newstote.com

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