By PAULA TRACY,
DOVER – Hillsborough County Superior Court has a new judge.
Martin Honigberg of Concord will leave his post as chairman of the state’s Public Utilities Commission to serve on the bench, a job he said he has always dreamed of having.
Honigberg’s nomination had been held up over politics for the past month. On Wednesday, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu brought forward his nomination after withdrawing it following an unrelated political battle over his nomination of Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to serve as chief justice of the state Supreme Court. The council voted along political lines, 2-3 to reject the MacDonald nomination.
After that vote in Littleton, Sununu said he would withdraw Honigberg’s nomination and would take a break from bringing more nominees through that “political” process, which he said was a new low for the council.
The vote for Honigberg, former counsel to former Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, was unanimous Wednesday but came as a surprise to the councilors. Councilor Debora Pignatelli of Nashua thanked the governor for bringing for the nomination forward and said she hoped that they could work together in the future as “a team.”
“Wonderful,” Sununu said at the meeting, But after the meeting, Sununu said that does not mean he is now ready to bring a state Supreme Court nomination or any other judicial nomination forward.
He said it was not fair to leave Honigberg’s nomination in limbo.
Two weeks ago, when the governor refused to bring forward Honigberg’s nomination at Pignatelli’s request, Michael Conlon, Hillsborough County Attorney, said that there is a practical problem with holding up nominations.
He said the system is facing a potential
for backlog with not enough judges. Defendants have a time frame where
they need to be tried or they go free. Conlon said it has a ripple
effect throughout the justice system.
Pignatelli agreed. “The Superior Court is crying out for justices,” she said.
New Non-Motorized Trail Through Seacoast
You can soon walk, run or cycle the length of the state’s Seacoast area on an abandoned rail corridor.
The council approved the purchase of Pan Am Railways’ abandoned rail corridor from Hampton to Portsmouth for $5 million.
It is 9.6 miles of new trail which runs through Hampton, North Hampton, Rye, Greenland, and Portsmouth.
The trail will be included in the Seacoast Greenway, a pedestrian and biking trail that will run from the Massachusetts border in Seabrook to the Maine border in Portsmouth.
The funds to pay for the purchase are all federal. Eighty percent comes from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program. Twenty percent comes from turnpike toll credits.
The vote makes the ownership effective immediately, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The section runs from the area of Foss Manufacturing in Hampton to WBBX Road in Portsmouth. It will connect on its southern end with a portion of the future Greenway already owned by the state that runs to the Massachusetts border.
The state is expected to use federal grant money to build a stone dust trail along the abandoned rail bed for non-motorized use with certain exceptions like electric bikes.
The rail-trail is envisioned to be part of the East Coast Greenway, a walking and biking path running from Maine to Florida. On the northern end of the corridor, a route connecting to the Memorial Bridge into Kittery has not yet been identified.
Advocates for the Seacoast Greenway
told Seacoast Online that the former rail-trail could be used to access
downtowns like in Portsmouth and Hampton, as well as Seabrook’s shopping
centers on Route 1.
“There is so much opportunity with this trail to open up the Route 1 corridor,” Seth McNally, a Hampton resident and a member of the New Hampshire Seacoast Greenway Advisory Committee told InDepthNH.org prior to the vote.
Transportation officials said the purchase price was negotiated based on several commercial appraisals, which were reviewed by the state’s DOT appraiser.
Meeting at Dover High School
The Governor and Executive Council meeting was held Wednesday at Dover High School as part of the summer schedule in which the council leaves Concord and visits all five of the state’s Council districts. Already this summer, the council has visited Littleton and Kingston. It heads next to Manchester.
Commended during the event was Dover SEED that provides grants to teachers and the Grab and Go program within the schools which help provide nourishment for students. The high school’s jazz ensemble kicked off the meeting.
The council also received a public briefing from the U.S. Army National Guard on cybersecurity and exercises being undertaken in the state, and training in the Washington, D.C. area to protect infrastructure, including utilities.
“It’s a real threat and a real security risk,” Sununu said.
Victoria Sheehan, the commissioner of the state Department of Transportation responded to commission concerns about the sounds coming from rumble strips in Alton. Installation of rumble strips inside the center line and inside of the white line is encroaching upon the driving path, councilors said.
Sheehan said the department has been updating its guidelines on rumble strips and she said she recently met with officials in Wolfeboro. “We have had a lot of concerns raised on noise levels, particularly in rural areas,” she said.
She said the department is looking at different types of strips, including “mumblestrips.”
Sununu said it has been an issue of safety versus noise. The department has been working diligently to find that happy medium, Sununu said. Mumblestrips, he said, was a new word, but he likes it.
There is a test mumblestrip on Route 28 in Barnstead, Sheehan said.
In other action, Kevin LaChapelle of Tilton was confirmed as assistant director of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management within the Department of Safety.
“I think he is going to be great,” Sununu said. LaChapelle will serve at the pleasure of the Commissioner of Safety and the current rate of pay for the job will be $103,000.
The council also approved a number of contracts to help support housing for homeless individuals and families through the Federal Continuum of Care Program in an amount not to exceed $281,462.
It authorized a $138,740 agreement with The Greater Tilton Area Family Resource Center to provide workforce readiness and vocational training programs for individuals with opioid use disorder. It tabled a contract with Greater Nashua Council on Alcoholics for similar services.