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.