Future of Opechee Park House on Monday night's City Council agenda

LACONIA — The City Council will consider whether or not to rebuild the Opechee Park House when it meets on Monday night. The building was closed in 2010 after it was found structurally unsound and subsequently demolished.
City Manager Scott Myers included $110,000 to reconstruct the building in his proposed 2013-2014 budget, but at least two city councilors have questioned the recommendation to rebuild.
Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3), whose ward includes Opechee Park, suggested that before appropriating the funds the council sound the public on the issue to determine what he called the "community demand" for the project. Councilor Matt Lahey (Ward 2) was quick to agree.
Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, said that before requesting funding to rebuild the park house from the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Committee he determined "there is sufficient demand for use of a park house and a strong enough organization to manage it to justify reconstruction." The CIP Committee ranked the park sixteenth among its priorities.
Dunleavy said that the $110,000 represented the cost of materials, explaining that students from the building trades program at the Huot Technical Center, together with a number of contractors and tradesmen, have volunteered their labor.
Myers pointed out that the Opechee Park House served as a polling station for years before its closure. Since then voters in Ward 3 have cast their ballots at the middle school. Myers said that with rising concerns about the school security there would be advantages to returning the polling station to the park house.
The park houses were originally constructed by the city and leased to the park associations, which in turn rent them to civic and social organizations as well as families and individuals for meetings and functions. The associations apply the rental income to the upkeep of the park houses.
In 1996, the City Council adopted a formal policy by which "certain costs for the operation, maintenance and repair" of the park houses were shared between the city and the associations. Apart from a $2,200 annual allotment from the city, the associations are responsible for all utilities — heat, water, sewage, electricity and telephones as well as trash disposal. Generally the associations tend to interior maintenance and repair, including plumbing and electricity. Structural repairs, replacement of heating systems, along with plumbing and electrical fixtures, and exterior painting are the preserve of the city.