CONCORD — The Senate Finance Committee has unanimously endorsed a bill introduced by state Sen. Chuck Morse (R-Salem), president of the Senate, to convene a committee to frame a recommendation for proceeding with the sale of former Laconia State School property on North Main Street before the end of the current legislative session.
"It's time to end this," Morse said after the committee met on Tuesday. "The bill is meant to have a solution to present to the governor and get this done."
Morse, who first proposed selling the property in 2010, has grown increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress, particularly as the state is spending some $400,000 a year to maintain and police the property. On Tuesday, he told the Finance Committee that he met with then governor-elect Chris Sununu in December and they agreed "It needs to be dealt with this session."
The bill — Senate Bill 36 — establishes a committee consisting of the chairmen of the Senate and House finance committees, both Republicans, a Democratic member of the House Finance Committee, and a representative and senator from the Long Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee. The committee is charged with reporting its findings and recommending legislation on or before April 1, 2017. Morse said he expects his bill to carry the Senate shortly then be referred to the House, where he anticipates it could encounter some resistance.
In fact, state Rep. Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett), who chairs the House Public Works and Highways Committee and has opposed selling the property from the outset, has proposed referring the matter to the Long-Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee, which would determine whether, as the statute reads, "the property is no longer needed by the state" and commission an appraisal of its value.
"Not another year of meetings," Morse said in response to Chandler's initiative. "We're not going to let that property sit for another ten years with nothing happening. I want to make sure it gets develops and benefits Laconia. I will make sure I use my power to get this done."
Meanwhile, in accord with a directive in the 2016-2017 state budget to sell the property, the Department of Administrative Services has also made a recommendation to market the property in its present condition. Although the entire property stretches over about 245 acres, only the main campus straddling Right Way Path of some 200 acres would be offered for sale. The buildings and land are beset with environmental issues and numerous encumbrances and the so-called "designated receiving facility' housing sex offenders found incompetent to stand trial remains on the site, all of which diminish its value and appeal to prospective purchasers. The property was appraised for $2.16 million in 2012, but its actual value remains in question.
The city was not represented when the Senate Finance Committee met, prompting Morse to remark "because they've had enough of us." In the past the city has expressed interest in acquiring the property and in 2012 offered to purchase it for its appraised value, but the state declined the offer. If a private party makes an offer to purchase the property, Laconia, as the host municipality, would be given, under state law, an opportunity to match that offer.
Mayor Ed Engler said that at this point there is nothing for the city to do but let the state pursue whatever course it chooses to a conclusion and if an offer is made to purchase the property, then decide whether or not to match it.
- Category: Local News
- Hits: 1278