Group of lawmakers renews effort to keep State School land in Concord's hands

CONCORD — A bipartisan group of lawmakers have again introduced legislation to repeal the provision of the 2012-2013 state budget requiring the sale of the former Laconia State School property on North Main Street. Last year a bill to same effect was adopted by the Senate but rejected by the House of Representatives.

The bill is sponsored by Representatives John Graham (R-Bedford), Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett) and Candace Bouchard (D-Concord) and Senators Jim Rausch (R-Derry) and Lou D'Allesandro (D-Manchester).
Both Chandler and Rausch believe the state should retain ownership of the property.

In 2011, the Legislature directed the New Hampshire Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to offer the entire site to the city for "not less than $10 million" and if the city failed to accept the offer, to offer it to Belknap County "at fair market value." If neither the city nor the county purchased the property, it would be put on the open market for no less than its fair market value. The law specified that the property was to be sold by May 1, 2013.

City Councilor Matt Lahey (Ward 2), then mayor, chaired a commission convened by the Legislature to consider the future of the property and has led the city's effort to acquire some or all of the tract. He said that with the passage of the deadline of May 1, the state remains open to offers for the property, which Linda Hodgdon, Commissioner of Administrative Services, may present to the governor and Executive Council at her discretion.

With the repeal of the current law, the property would become subject to the statute governing the disposal of state-owned real estate (RSA 4:40), which stipulates that the department with jurisdiction over the property — in this case the Department of Corrections — must recommend its sale or lease to the Long-Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee. Composed of legislators together with a representative of the governor, the committee, with the advice of the Council on Resources and Development, consisting of officials of various state agencies, must approve the recommendation and submit it to the governor and executive council. If the governor and executive council also approve the sale or lease of the property, it must first be offered to the municipality or county where it is located and can only be placed on the open market if both refuse the offer.

The sale price may not be less than the current market value of the property as determined by the governor and executive council. In June, 2011 the state appraised the property for $2.16-million. The next year the City Council offered to purchase it for that amount, but the offer was not considered.

The property consists of four tax parcels. The largest, some 200-acres, is bounded by North Main Street to the east, Meredith Center Road and Eastman Road to the north and Ahern State Park to the west and south and divided roughly in half by Right Way Path. This parcel includes some 60 acres adjacent to the Robbie Mills Sports Complex bounded by Eastman Road and Green Street known as Risley Field, which the city leases on a short-term basis to provide parking for the sports complex. It excludes some 17 acres housing the 911 call center and the building vacated by Lakes Region Community Services that would remain the property of the state. The parcel was appraised at $1,760,000,

There are also two smaller parcels. An undeveloped 10.4-acre lot at the junction of Old North Main Street and North Main Street was appraised at $300,000. An unimproved wooded lot of 7.5-acres at the corner of Lane Road and Meredith Center Road was appraised at $100,000. The state also leased both smaller parcels to the city in 2000 for 99 years at $1 a year.