City to discuss parking garage repairs and options Monday

LACONIA — The Land and Buildings Committee of the City Council will begin its consideration of how to address the condition of the downtown parking garage when it meets on Monday, Dec. 28, at 6:15 p.m., prior to the regularly scheduled meeting of the council, which begins at 7 p.m.

The ownership of the garage is unique. The ramps and north end of the second and third levels, including the northernmost stairwell, are owned by the city. The ground floor of the garage, except for the ramps, and the south end of the second and third levels, including the southernmost stairwell, along with seven commercial units on the ground level, are privately owned. The city is responsible for maintaining most of the garage, particularly the ramps to access the the second and third levels.

Genesis Behavioral Health has entered a purchase-and-sales agreement to purchase the privately owned portion of the facility, which includes some 36 of the 228 parking spaces and the commercial space on the ground floor. The agency intends to invest $5.5 million in acquiring the property and converting it to house its administrative and clinical services in the 26,000 square feet currently leased to the Grace Capital Church and two vacant units while continuing to rent units to four other businesses.

When the council discussed the future of the garage two weeks ago, Maggie Pritchard, executive director of Genesis, told the councilors that if the city did not repair the garage, Genesis would not acquire the private portion of the structure.

Dubois & King Inc. estimates the cost of repairs required to ensure long-term use of the downtown parking garage at $1.2 million. However, City Manager Scott Myers said that a section of the second level covered by fireproofing material remains to be assessed and suggested increasing the cost of repair to $1.5 million.

Myers said the repairs would extend the life of the ramps between 25 and 30 years and the decks between 30 and 40 years. In addition, he expected annual maintenance costs to average about $10,000 over the life of the facility.

Meanwhile, several downtown property and business owners urged the council to not only repair but also improve the garage by adding an exterior staircase, which would be lighted and glassed, and an elevator while taking steps to make it more welcoming, secure and attractive. Myers ventured that such improvements could raise the cost of the project to between $2 million and $3 million.

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Transient arrested for criminal trespass

LACONIA - Police arrested a transient man after getting a report of burglary yesterday at 159 Union Ave.

Capt. Matt Canfield said Darryl Furnari, 44, allegedly went into the apartment and defecated on the floor. He said officers found a small burn mark on the floor as well but Furnari told them he accidentally dropped his cigarette.

Furnari is charged with one count of criminal trespass and one count of criminal mischief. He refused bail and is scheduled to appear in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division Friday morning for arraignment.

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Auction seeks new home as Opechee Conference Center closes

LACONIA — With the decision of the owner of the Lake Opechee Inn and Spa to close the Opechee Conference Center in June, the Greater Lakes Region Children's Auction will be seeking a new home.

In response to the decision, Mike Seymour, who chairs the board of the directors of the auction, and fellow board member Ed Darling issued a statement last week stressing that "we have been privileged and honored to call The Conference Center at the Lake Opechee Inn and Spa home for the past decade. The success of the auction is in no small part due to the stability of being in one place for this lengthy period."

They went on to say that "while we regret the need to find a new home, we understand the decisions that are being made at this time are ones that are in the best interest of the long-term health and vitality of this important landmark property. It is our hope," they continued, "that as this property develops and continues to change, there will an opportunity in the future to consider bringing the auction back to the Lake Opechee Inn and Spa. We know that we will continue to have their strong support and will benefit from our continued relationship with them as we have for the last decade."

Meanwhile, Seymour said Monday that the board will begin its search for a new venue in January. He explained that the auction requires a venue that meets three major criteria.

"We would like for it to be as centrally located in the Lakes Region and as easy to get to as possible," he said, adding that Laconia is probably the most suitable location. Size, he continued, is also important since the auction needs a large space for the studio, telephone banks and greeting area, along with room to store inventory and an area to prepare refreshments and take breaks.

Finally, Seymour noted, the venue must be capable of handling a significant amount of wiring, cables and conduit for Metrocast Cablevision, Lakes Region Public Access Television and the telephone bank. The wiring, he said, remained in place throughout the year at the Conference Center, where it was hidden in ceilings, which was a significant convenience.

"There are a lot of factors in play," Seymour said, "and we would like six to eight months lead time to work with our partners to develop and implement a plan."

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