Belmont says conversations continue with LRGHealthcare about renting bank building space

BELMONT — Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin said earlier this week that LRGHealthcare of Laconia was still taking to town officials about the possibility of relocation the doctors offices in the Belmont Mill to the former Northway Bank Building.

"We are still having conversations and they have only been conversations," Beaudin said.

LRGHealthcare spokeswoman Sandy Marshall said yesterday that her company is examining a number of options for Belknap Family Care Health Services but was unable to confirm the former bank building in the heart Belmont Village was one of them.

The topic came up at a selectmen's meeting held before the town's annual voting day on March 10, when the board was discussing some of the tenants that are in the mill and what could possible happened to them if it was renovated and converted into town offices.

During that discussion, Beaudin mentioned that the Family Health Care Services may be interested in the former bank building.

Since the town voted nearly 4-to-1 against spending $3.2 million on the complete mill restoration the town has been on hold as to what to do with it.

The key issue with the mill is that the fourth floor has been deemed unusable for structural reasons and the Lakes Region Community College Culinary Arts Program that was there relocated to Canterbury Shaker Village.

To fix only the fourth floor would require the Belknap Family Care Health Services, which occupy the entire third floor, to temporarily relocate — something Beaudin said she was told would not be in their best interests.

Beaudin said the town is definitely interested in having the family care services remain either in the mill or in the bank building.

Jail superintendent leds charge to give county department heads more freedom to set policy

LACONIA — The Belknap County Commission is looking at a revising its policy manual to give department heads more control over developing policies specific to their departments.
A proposed revision in the policy procedure was circulated at Wednesday morning's meeting of the commission and was prompted by concerns raised by Belknap County Corrections Department Superintendent Daniel Ward at the March 19 meeting of the commissioners.
At that meeting commissioners agreed to a request by Ward that he be allowed to adopt policies for the jail which he said are needed and are his responsibility under state law 43:24.
''The law is very clear on what my responsibilities are,'' said Ward, who said that the policies are separate from those contained in the county's policy manual.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said that the manual has procedures for departmental specific policies and asked commissioners whether that policy which was put in place in 2010 should be followed or whether Ward should be allowed to develop policies without direct authorization from commissioners.
Commissioner Richard Burchell, who was ousted as commission chairman at the March 2 meeting, said that he thought the former commissioners had abrogated authority to themselves, which was contrary to state law and that it is Ward's responsibility to handle operational details specific to correctional facilities.
Commissioners agreed that Ward had the authority to develop the policies and asked that they be informed by e-mails of the new policies which have been adopted.
Prior to that meeting Ward had sent an e-mail to all department heads as well as county commissioners detailing his concerns about the procedures which had been adopted in 2010, which directed all department heads to work through the county administrator in the development of policies and required that they be reviewed by the county administrator, who would determine if further review was needed, before being implemented.
He wrote that the commissioners at that time ''felt they could rest all of their power and authority in just one person'' and said that it had created a situation in which the professionals running the departments were unable to draft policies or needed approval from an individual who had no knowledge or experience in the area in question.
The proposed policy manual revision drops the language about the county administrator being the designated agent of the commissioners and provides that all newly developed policies be forwarded to the county administrator and that in the case of conflicts that the policy adopted by the county commissioners shall prevail.

$2 million from sale of Laconia State School is in revenue budget passed by House

CONCORD — Governor Maggie Hassan's proposal to sell the former Laconia State School property on North Main Street was included in the biennial budget adopted by the New Hampshire House of Representatives this week.

The governor directed the Department of Administrative Services to sell the property and included $2 million in proceeds from the transaction, which represents the selling price of the property, among the revenues in her proposed 2016-2017 budget. Although some members of the the House have opposed selling the property in the past, the budget writers left the governor's proposal intact. The Senate, including Senator Chuck Morse (R-Salem), the president of the Senate, has favored selling the property, not least because the state is spending nearly $300,000 a year to secure and maintain it.

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. 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, through lack of action, declined the offer.

Ed Engler, the mayor of Laconia has said that he would advocate for acquiring the property if it were offered to the city for its appraised value.

The terms of the proposed transaction are stipulated in House Bill 2, the so-called "trailer bill" that accompanies the budget, which directs the commissioner of the DAS to execute the sale. 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 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, as the law requires.

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.