CONCORD — The state will renew its effort in the coming months to sell the site on North Main Street that formerly housed the Laconia State School, Michael Connor, deputy commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) with responsibility for property and purchasing, said yesterday.
The sale of the property was included in the 2016-2017 state budget adopted by the Legislature last month. The revenue estimates for the biennium include $2-million in proceeds from the transaction. In 2012 an appraisal prepared for the state by the Bureau of Right-of-Way of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation placed the value of the site at $2.16 million.
Mayor Ed Engler, who has favored purchasing the site, yesterday reaffirmed that he would advocate acquiring it if it were offered to the city for its appraised value or less.
The terms of the proposed transaction are stipulated in the companion bill to the budget. The transaction would be subject to the requirements of RSA 4:40, the statute governing the sale or lease of state property, which stipulates that it must be first be offered to the municipality or county where it is located. But, the transaction would be exempt from the review and approval of both the Council on Resources and Development, a panel representing executive departments and agencies, and the Long Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee, consisting of four members of the Senate and four members of the House of Representatives. Instead, the sale would require the approval of only the Governor and Executive Council.
"Something has to happen," Connor said yesterday, who added that the first step would be to hire a broker and then to approach the city. "There is a lot to talk about," he said.
The property consists of 202 acres 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. Among the 26 buildings on the site, the appraiser found less than a handful salvageable and estimated the cost of demolishing the rest at more than $2 million.
An initial assessment of the site by Credere, LLC of Westbrook, Maine in 2010 indicated that there were typical but significant environmental concerns, most of them confined to the 75 acres housing the buildings. As the party responsible for the environmental contamination the state cannot qualify for federal funding to address it. But, the city qualifies for funding to assess the extent of the contamination and if were to acquire the site, would be eligible for funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to address contamination.
The state first sought to sell the property in 2011, offering it to the city for $10-million. However, soon afterwards two appraisals, one by the state and another by the city, found it was worth about a fifth that much. In April, 2012 the Laconia City Council offered to purchase the property, together with the Robbie Mills Sports Complex, an abutting 10.2-acre parcel owned by the state and leased to the city for 99 years, for $2.16 million. The state did not respond to the offer. The property has been on the open market ever since, but the state has received no offers for it.
Connor said that the state spends approximately $330,000 annually to maintain and police the property, apart from the cost of any urgent repairs like the replacement of a failing roof.
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