Perley Canal Mill apartments fill a need for new housing in downtown Laconia

By ALANA PERSSON, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — With almost all 30 units leased within the new Perley Canal Mill apartment complex, it is safe to say there indeed was a demand for market-rate housing downtown.

Located at 72 Landing Lane along the Winnipesaukee River and Beacon Street, the Perley Canal Mill apartment complex opened for renters at the start of this year. The decision to make these apartments market rate, meaning that they are sold at market value without any income limits or special requirements to own them, was a route that had not been taken in downtown Laconia for many decades. Deciding to model a development outline that had worked various times in the Seacoast region of New Hampshire, Chinburg Builders decided to purchase the property and pursue construction of a new state-of-the-art housing infrastructure.

The vision of the apartment complex was to attract renters based upon the luxury "maintenance free" units and the easy access to downtown and the River Walk. Transforming the former Laconia Car Company, and the Allen-Rogers mill into livable units, each apartment has been designed to include features such as stainless steel, granite counters, a full bathroom, maple cabinets and exposed brick. Additionally, the amenities include heat, hot water, wifi, on-site parking, secure entry, a club room and fitness room, as well as on-site storage.

Although each unit has the same features and amenities, the apartments themselves range in size and price, from studio to spacious two-bedroom apartments. The studio apartments range between 632 to 778 square feet and were put on the market for the value of $875 to $1,075 per month. One bedroom apartments range from 703 to 1,128 square feet with a price ranging from $995 to $1,585 per month, and two-bedroom apartments range from 1,032 to 1,371 square feet with a price range of $1,295 to $1,895 per month.

The prices were set after assessing multiple factors, including the property value and current market rates for similarly constructed apartments. With the prices higher than most in the area, the properties would only be able to cater to local individuals who were at or above the average household income for Laconia, which for the 2015 year was calculated to be $69,637 per year, and the median household income of $56,171 per year.

"After hitting the market, the prices of the apartments only dropped slightly from what they were marketed at originally," said George Weisenburger of Partners Property Management LLC, when asked if the price ranges had been met.

For more information about the apartments or openings within the complex call The Chinburg Builders 749-3355 or visit www.chinburg.com/property/perley-canal/.

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The Perley Canal Mill apartments opened downtown recently, and are almost all rented. (Alana Persson/Laconia Daily Sun)

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The interior of an apartment as shown at the Perley Canal Mill website. (Courtesy photo)

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The floor plans of the complex.

Shrinking state aid, tax cap challenges Laconia, towns at budget time

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — While the reduction of state aid and the shifting of state costs to cities and towns puts upward pressure on local property taxes throughout the state, it poses particular challenges for municipalities like Laconia, where the budget process is subject to the strictures of the tax cap.

This year, a cut of $455,250 in state aid for education contributed to requiring significant reductions in the School District budget to fit it within the tax cap. This week, the New Hampshire Municipal Association released a report suggesting that the city could find itself under similar pressures.

The property tax cap limits the annual increase in total amount raised by property taxes to the rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index — Urban, for the prior calendar year, plus an additional amount representing the value of new construction.The total amount raised by property taxes represents the difference between budgeted appropriations and revenue from sources other than property taxes, which includes charges and fees collected by the city and transfers of funds from the state.

Therefore, decreases in other revenues other than property taxes can only be offset by reducing expenditures or raising property taxes. Of course, any increase in property taxes is bound by the limits of the tax cap, which can be overridden by the two-thirds majority of the City Council.

The report finds that since 2009 state aid to municipalities, measured in nominal dollars, has fallen from $160 million to less than $120 million, a decrease of 25 percent.The suspension of revenue sharing, a distribution to municipalities begun in 1970 with the introduction of the Business Profits Tax to compensate cities and towns for the repeal of local taxes on commercial activity, represents the largest share of the reduction.

At the same time, the report indicates the Legislature has taken other measures that have stalled the growth of revenues intended for distribution to cities and towns, chiefly the sharing of proceeds from the Meals and Rooms Tax, but including highway block grants, bridge aid and grants for wastewater and drinking water facilities as well as landfill closures. The suspension of revenue sharing and reduction in the Meals and Rooms Tax distribution have had the greatest impact on the city operating budget.

During the same period, the state reduced and then eliminated its contribution to the New Hampshire Retirement System to fund the retirement costs for teachers, police officers and firefighters, leaving municipalities to bear first a rising share and finally the total cost of the employer contribution, approaching $90 million.

In the 2008-2009 city budget, state aid of $1.7 million represented 24.5 percent of the $6.9 million in revenue from sources other than property taxes. The next year, the Legislature suspended revenue sharing. In the 2009-2010 city budget state aid decreased to $1.1 million, or 18 percent of the revenue from sources other than property taxes of $6 million which reflected the loss of revenue sharing.

As a portion of city revenue from sources other than property taxes, state aid has remained virtually flat since the suspension of revenue sharing in 2010. The 2016-2017 city budget adopted earlier this month includes $1.2 million in state aid, 17 percent of the $6.7 million of all revenues from sources other than property taxes.

When the Meals and Rooms Tax was introduced in 1967, the intent was for the state to retain 60 percent of the receipts and distribute the remaining 40 percent to the municipalities. But, the Legislature reduced the municipal share, effectively freezing it at the level of 1976. In 1993, Legislature enacted a formula designed to reach the original split. It provided that 75 percent of the annual increase in revenue from the tax, but not more than $5 million, would be distributed to cities and towns based on their population.

However, the formula was suspended from 2010 to 2014, leaving municipalities with the $53.8 million they received in 2009 while revenues from the tax rose by $50 million. The suspension was lifted in 2015 but reimposed in 2016. Altogether, suspending the formula cost cities and towns some $58 million in foregone revenue between 2010 and 2016.

In fiscal year 2008-2009, the city received $766,258 in proceeds from the Meals and Rooms Tax and last year, when the suspension was lifted, it received some $780,000.

City Manager Scott Myers has distributed the New Hampshire Municipal Association's report to the Mayor and City Councilors, noting its implications for the tax cap.

Gilford Elementary School updates its infrastructure

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — Corridors are dug up, equipment and piping is strategically placed in hallways and classrooms, and new fixtures are being installed as the elementary school renovation project progresses through the summer.

Scheduled to be completed over two consecutive summers, the renovation for this summer, said Buildings and Grounds Director Tim Bartlett, is primarily plumbing and drainage.

"We have reconfigured some of the gang bathrooms built in 1938 and 1962 to accommodate handicap and privacy issues," he said. "We're making them much more user friendly."

Because it is an elementary school, Bartlett said many of the classrooms are equipped with single bathrooms, meaning there are a lot of toilets and sinks in the building.

As part of the renovations, all of the sinks and countertops are being updated, along with miscellaneous fixtures. New toilets are all low-flow.

Superintendent Kirk Beitler said this is conducive to improved student hygiene and Cleanliness for Kids educational programs at the elementary level.

Bartlett also said that the wall sinks in the custodial closets are being removed and floor sinks are being installed.

"It's hard to lift mop buckets up to the wall sinks, so this is much more employee-friendly," he said.

Voters approved a $2.4 million bond at the March annual School District Meeting to upgrade the elementary school's entire mechanical, HVAC and plumbing systems. To keep the school open and to minimize interruptions to students, constructions crews will complete the project over this summer and next.

"We will be ready for teachers (to come in and set up their classrooms) by the end of the last full week of August," said Bartlett. The first day of school for students is Aug. 31.

School District Business Administrator Scott Isabelle said that the parking lot and all of the driveways are also being reclaimed and repaved. The paving project, which has been in the planning stages for a number of years but never made the final budget until this year, is not part of the bond, but is one of the capital projects the school does annually. It is scheduled to start Monday.

He said all the construction has led to the school district closing the Imagination Station playground for the summer.

"People just can't safely get there," said Isabelle.

Next year, said Bartlett, is actually the bigger part of the project that will see all of rooftop HVAC units replaced, LED lights for the parking lots, and an upgrade of the fiber optics category to whatever is the newest available technology at the time.

A PowerPoint presentation for the project can be accessed at www.sau73.org. Isabelle said there are also additional photos of the renovation project at that site.

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The floor in the main corridor of Gilford Elementary School is impassable as construction crews repair some water and sewer lines as part of the two-year $2.2 million renovation. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

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