Boys & Girls Club & Genesis Behavioral Health competing for access to same federal money

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners will have to decide between two community organizations seeking sponsorship for $500,000 federal Community Development Block Grants by sometime early next month.
Commissioners agreed to schedule a public hearing for July 10 on the requests from the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region and Genesis Behavioral Health for projects the organizations told the commission Wednesday morning are vital to their missions.
But the county can only apply for one $500,000 grant at a time, although it has the option of splitting that amount between the two groups.
Maggie Pritchard of Genesis, which is a regional mental health agency, serving Belknap and southern Grafton Counties, said the agency wants the grant so that it consolidate its offices, currently located on Church Street and North Main Street in Laconia, in the former Southern New Hampshire University building at 22 Airport Way in Gilford next to Laconia Municipal Airport.
She said that the property is available for $550,000 and it will take $1.9 million to renovate it.
Pritchard said that Genesis is also in the running for state funds for the establishment of a 16-bed crisis unit which would serve the area north of Concord and would relieve some of the pressure on hospitals like Lakes Region General in Laconia, where three weeks ago 10 of the 17 emergency bays were occupied by people waiting for beds at the New Hampshire State (mental) Hospital.
Asked by Commissioner Steven Nedeau how confident she was that Laconia would become the site of a crisis center, Pritchard said that the Legislature has shown that ''it wants to move ahead on this'' and that she is reasonably confident.
''I'm not a gambling woman. I wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle and only play the quarter machines when I'm in Las Vegas. But I think chances are good,'' said Pritchard.
Commissioner John Thomas wondered about the difficulty for the agency's clients might have in getting to the airport location and Pritchard said that transportation would be available for those clients from the city's downtown area,.
She said that discussions about the use of the building had already been held with the Laconia Airport Authority and the Gilford Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Genesis is going through the county, rather than the Town of Gilford, to obtain the grant because Gilford's higher than average family income makes it less likely that it would qualify for a CDBG grant.
Speaking on behalf of the Laconia Boys & Girls Club, board chairman Al Posnack said that the club recently purchased the St. James Episcopal Church building for $700,000 and has so far paid $190,000 of that amount and would use the money to pay off the $510,000 balance.
''Our goal is not to have a mortgage,'' said Posnack, who said that the club is also looking to raise $1.5 million for renovations to the building and grounds through a capital fund drive.
Board member Russ Thibault said the club is ''preventive medicine in alleviating down the road problems'' and serves more than just Laconia.
Club Executive Director Cheryl Avery said the club now has a 17,000-square foot-facility, seven times larger than its previous home, and is looking to have a major impact on the community through its expanded programs..
Commissioners plan to meet next Tuesday afternoon, following the County Corrections Committee meeting, to discuss the grant requests and public hearing.