LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention unanimously approved an $8 million bond issue for building a "community corrections" center and renovation of parts of the current county jail when it met last evening at the Belknap County Courthouse.
The plan calls for spending $7,171,928 for a 18,000 square foot, 64-bed community corrections center adjacent to the existing county jail as well as $1,159,300 for renovating parts of the existing jail, which would have 60 beds.
The community corrections center will feature a rigorous regimen of substance abuse, mental health and educational programs and services, which Corrections Superintendent Keith Gray says the county currently lacks.
Project manager Anthony Mento of SMP Architecture of Concord has said that he expects ground will be broken for the project in June of 2016 and that it will be completed by September of 2017.
The unanimous vote came after the convention approved by a 12-3 vote a non-binding recommendation introduced by Rep. Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton) regarding the terms of the bond issue, which he said would save the county $1 million in interest costs.
His plan calls for using the county's fund balance to pay off the county's current $1.4 million in debt obligations over the next three years and having a 20-year bond issue with level payments of $530,000 per year over the life of the bond.
Prior to the vote on Gallagher's proposal, Convention Chairman Frank Tilton (R-Laconia), who opposed the proposal, said that the vote expressed the convention's preference but ultimate authority over the teems of the bond issue rests with the Belknap County Commissioners, the county treasurer and the county's bond counsel.
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said the commission supports a 25-year borrowing, with interest only payments in the first two years; the county fund balance would be used after that for a few years, until overall debt service payments drop to a level comparable to what they currently are.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton) pointed out that Gallagher's proposal would mean that the county would be obligated to $60,000 more in debt service payments per year ($530,000) than the level suggested by commissioners ($470,000), which would mean that the county would have $1.2 million less over those 20 years for funding other programs.
Tilton said that he favors the 25-year bond because it spreads the costs over a longer period of time and to future generations of taxpayers while Commission Vice Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) favored Gallagher's plan as it saves taxpayers from having to pay additional interest costs.
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