No quick fixes for city parking garage issues

LACONIA — “There will be no decision tonight and I don’t foresee a decision for foresee a decision for weeks,” said City Manager Scott Myers when the Land and Buildings Committee of the City Council met last night to weigh the future of the downtown parking garage.
Myers explained that Genesis Behavioral Health, which is seeking to purchase the privately owned portion of the garage and the commercial units beneath it, will not proceed without the city’s assurance that it will repair the facility. And the $5.5 million bond issued by the New Hampshire Health and Educational Facilities Authority to fund the purchase and renovation of the property expires in May 2016.
Meanwhile, Downtown Crossing LLC, which owns the private section of the garage. is eager to proceed with the sale. Paul and Dan Disangro, which were awarded the property in a settlement reached in 2009. The Disangros were partners of Steven Borghi of Alton when his plans to open a Work Out World franchise foundered under heavy debt, along with charges of misappropriation of funds and deceptive trade practices.
Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5), who chairs the committee, said that Dubis & King Inc., the engineering firm that assessed the condition of the garage, is “fine tuning” its estimate of the cost of the necessary repairs. Initially, the cost of repairing the ramps and decks to extend the life of the facility another 30 or 40 years was pegged at $1.2 million.
However, the condition of sections of the garage covered by a fire suppression material remain to be assessed. Paul Moynihan, director of the public works, told the committee employees of the department could remove the material at less cost than a private contractor.
At the same time, the cost of repairs to the privately owned portion of the garage, which represents about 20 percent of the 228 spaces, also remains to be estimated. Myers suggested, based on the estimate for the public section, the cost would approximate $300,000.
This brought the discussion full circle. Just as the sale of the private portion will not proceed without an assurance from the city to repairs its share of the facility, Myers said that the city will not undertake the repairs without the cooperation of the private owners. He indicated that cooperation could take the form of an agreement between the city and the private owner to proceed to repair and maintain their portions of the facility or to transfer ownership of the garage to one party.
When the City Council discussed the issue earlier this month Maggie Pritchard, executive director of Genesis, flatly rejected offers to acquire the city’s share of the garage for $1.
Apart from refining the cost of repairs, Myers said that he is also exploring the feasibility of constructing an exterior staircase and installing an elevator in place of the north stairwell. These improvements to the facility were proposed by a number of downtown property and business owners, who emphasized the importance of the both the parking garage and relocation of Genesis to the economy of downtown.

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Riverbank House plans significant expansion

LACONIA — Riverbank House, a residential community for men seeking to recover from addiction, has embarked on an expansion that will create a campus along both banks of the Winnipesaukee River just north of the Church Street Bridge.

Randy Bartlett, who founded Riverbank House in 2012, has acquired a half-dozen properties bordering the river, which he said yesterday will ultimately expand the capacity of the facility from the 16 beds it began with and the 36 beds it offers today to 65 beds.

Riverbank House is headquartered at 96 Church Street, an impressive three-story mansion of 5,446 square feet topped with a widow's walk, where last year Bartlett built a tree house, overlooking the river and linked to the building by hanging walkways, as an office and retreat.

In 2013, Bartlett acquired a two-family residence at 35 Messer Street and this year purchased the homes on either side of it at 29 and 39 Messer Street along with the commercial property housing Winnisquam Printing, which sits on a 0.40 acre lot with frontage on both Messer Street and Church Street. And he acquired the residential property at 16 Riverside Court abutting 96 Church Street. Except for the apartment building at 23 Messer Street, next door to the commercial building, all six properties are contiguous and all front the river, together forming the two arms of a "U" joined by the Church Street Bridge. Bartlett said that he will build a footpath connecting the properties.

"We really lucked on the real estate," Bartlett said. "We approached the owners and told them 'we have a little mission going here' and asked 'would you like to sell your property?' We are very grateful they were willing to sell," he continued," and no one overcharged us."

"We trying to develop a full spectrum of care for recovering addicts," Bartlett said. He stressed that the "length of stay is the single greatest predictor of success in overcoming addiction to drugs and alcohol." Riverbank House offers a five-month program, grounded in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Principles of Buddhism followed by up to 18 months of transitional living. The program, he described as a "structured regimen in life style and recovery with a spiritual component," emphasizing that there are many roads to recovery, each suited to different individuals.

While most of the property will provide housing, the commercial building will be renovated and converted to house a yoga studio, gymnasium, cafe and meeting room. Bartlett said that he also plans to add a licensed psychiatrist qualified to treat drug and alcohol addiction, who would work in the building, which will require a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Riverbank House is private, for-profit corporation. According to, a directory of rehabilitation facilities, it accepts only self payment — not insurance — and its costs range between $2,400 and $4,000 per month and the average length of stay is between 60 and 180 days. Riverbank House notes that its fees are less than 30 percent of the cost of the most effective facilities identified by Open Minds Consulting in 2011 and less than 10 percent of the cost of "high end facilities."

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LASC unlikely to reopen soon

LACONIA — The owners of the Laconia Athletic and Swim Club have notified members they are unlikely to reopen soon, and that if they do reopen it will be under a new corporate name and identity.


Thomas and Lori Oakley sent an email to members saying they are in the process of closing the current corporation and are working with the Attorney General's Office to process refunds and are current with the $50,000 bond to make the refunds.

The memo also said that "in order to be fair to all of our members and staff, we can no longer realistically be able to provide a potential reopening date."

According to the Secretary of State website, the Oakleys have two registered corporate names on file. Laconia Athletic & Swim Club, Limited Partnership, which was formed in 1991 and reorganized in 2013 to include Lori Oakley, and LASC Inc., also formed in 1991. Both are still active companies.

The swim club, as it is known by its members, closed Thanksgiving Day after 34 years of operating on North Main Street.

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