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Governor's proposed budget includes $2 million from sale of State School property

CONCORD — Governor Maggie Hassan has counted proceeds of $2 million from the sale of the former Laconia State School property on North Main Street as revenue in her 2016-2017 state budget, a proposal that may rekindle the city's interest in acquiring the site.

In 2012, the city offered to purchase the property for $2.16-million, but the state agency in charge did not respond to the offer.

"I would advocate for acquiring the property, if it were offered at its appraised value," Mayor Ed Engler said yesterday.

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.

The terms of the proposed transaction are stipulated in House Bill 2, the so-called "trailer bill" that accompanies the biennial budget, which directs the commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services 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.

At the same time, the governor seeks to exempt 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 city mounted an effort to acquire the property soon after the closure of the Lakes Region (prison) Facility in 2009. In 2011, the Legislature directed the New Hampshire Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to offer the entire site to the city for "not less than $10-million" and, if by June 30, 2012 the city failed to accept the offer, to offer it to Belknap County "at fair market value" with a deadline of August 15, 2012. If neither the city nor the county purchased the property, it would be put on the open market.

However, the 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 City Council authorized City Manager Scott Myers and City Councilor Matt Lahey to offer 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.

When the did not acknowledge the offer, Lahey wrote to Governor John Lynch and the five Executive Councilors reaffirming it. "The city is ready, willing, and able to acquire this property, to address the environmental issues and to return the property to productive use, he wrote, asking the Governor and Council to place the offer on its agenda and "act favorably". Again the state did nothing and the city withdrew its offer.

The property has been for sale on the open market since 2012, but the state has received no offers. The value of the property is depreciated by environmental contamination at the site. Unlike the state, which was responsible for the contamination, the city is eligible for federal funding to clean up the property.

In 2010, Credere Associates, LLC of Westbrook, Maine completed a Phase I environmental assessment of the property, which identified likely risks to the natural environment and human health primarily in and around the buildings. Credere found that soil and groundwater have been contaminated by petroleum and other hazardous materials from leaking storage tanks, floor drains and waste disposal at several locations. Moreover, there are indications that the same contaminants, along with PCBs, pesticides, insecticides and coal ash, may have reached soil and groundwater at another half dozen places. Records shows that sewer treatment on the property included a chlorination plant with associated sludge beds. Furthermore, the age and condition of the buildings suggest that asbestos, lead paint, mold and PCBs are likely present in many of them.

The city need not own the property to apply for funding to commission an environmental assessment. But, it must own the property and not be responsible for the contamination to apply for funding to clean it up.

The Brownfields Cleanup Program administered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency awards grants of up to $200,000 per property parcel for as many as three parcels a year, with a 20-percent local match in cash or kind. By subdividing the contaminated portion of the site into three separate parcels, the city could apply for as much as $1.2 million in a two- year period to fund clean up at the site.
In addition, the EPA provides grants of up to $1 million to municipalities and economic development corporations, like the Belknap Economic Development Council, to capitalize revolving loan funds, which provide low or no-interest loans to for-profit and no-profit entities for clean up operations.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 March 2015 01:01

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City entered March $36,805 over winter road budget

LACONIA — With half-a-dozen heavy snowfalls in February, the Department of Public Works had overspent its winter maintenance budget by the end of the month.

Altogether the department spent $115,214 in February bringing total expenditures for the season to date to $442,805, $36,805 more than the $406,000 budgeted. The DPW has spent $331,000 for purchases of sand and salt as well as vehicle costs, $86,375 for over-times and $28,430 for outside contractors.

City Manager told the City Council this week that he would seek to defray the overage with unspent funds from the public works budget before drawing on the winter maintenance reserve account, which has a current balance of $95,310.

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 March 2015 12:53

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'Initiative & courage': Gilford salutes officer who saved couple in burning home

GILFORD — Police Chief Anthony Bean Burpee and selectmen last night presented Officer Curtis Mailloux with a Meritorious Service Award and an extra days' pay for his actions on February 8, when he ran into a smoke-filled building twice to rescue two elderly occupants.

Mailloux, said Bean Burpee, acted above and beyond the call of duty and exemplified the two most important qualities in a police officer — initiative and courage.

While members of the Gray and Mailloux family looked on — Mr. and Mrs. James Gray, Sr., the couple Mailloux saved were unable to attend, Bean-Burpee said "common initiative and physical and moral courage" are the two qualities exhibited by Mailloux that night.

He said police officers are dedicated to saving lives and making live better for those who need it and Mailloux exemplified both of those dedications that night.

After Mr. and Mrs. Gray were removed from the home, they and Mailloux were taken by ambulances to Lakes Region General Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation, treated and released.

Also watching Mailloux receive his award was a number of members of the Gilford Police Department and Fire Departments as well as Belmont Patrol Officer Derek Gray, who is Mr. and Mrs. Gray's grandson and Barnstead Police Chief Joseph McDowell, who is a Gilford resident.

For his part, Mailloux simply said "thank you."

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 March 2015 12:48

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Rescue crews search Lake Opechee for possible missing snowmobile, find nothing

LACONIA — Firefighters from Belmont, Gilford and Laconia and city police scoured a portion of Lake Opechee Tuesday evening after a caller from Driftwood Drive reported a snowmobile had disappeared around 8:30 p.m.

The caller said he or she saw lights and then didn't see any.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said four firefighters went on to the ice off Driftwood and four others entered on to the ice from Franklin Street in Lakeport.

He said police used flashlights to look around the shore.

After about an hour, Erickson call off the search saying they found no significant open water except for that around the Lakeport Dam.

"It kind of leaves a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach," said Erickson, referring to when they leave a search without really knowing what happened. "We just pray that nobody calls and says their loved one went snowmobiling and didn't return."

Last Updated on Thursday, 12 March 2015 12:34

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