CONCORD — As members of the House of Representatives and Senate thrash out their differences over the 2016-2017 state budget, Governor Maggie Hassan's proposal to sell the former Laconia State School property on North Main Street has been endorsed by both chambers.
When the governor broached the sale of the property in February, Ed Engler, the mayor of Laconia has said that he would advocate for acquiring the property if it were offered to the city for its appraised value or less. Yesterday he reaffirmed his commitment to pursue the acquisition of the property when, as the law stipulates, it is offered to the city.
The governor directed the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to sell the property and included $2 million in proceeds from the transaction, the apparent selling price of the property, among the revenues in her proposed budget. Although some members of the House have opposed selling the property in the past, the provision was included in the budget adopted by the House in April. The Senate, where the proposal to sell the property originated in 2011, concurred.
The terms of the proposed transaction are stipulated in House Bill 2, the companion bill to the budget, which directs the commissioner of the DAS 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. But, the transaction would be exempt 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.
In 2012 an 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 Laconia City Council offered 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. The state did not respond to the offer.
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.
An initial assessment of the site by Credere, LLC of Westbrook, Maine in 2010 indicated that there were typical but significant environmental concerns, most of them confined to the 75 acres housing the buildings. Soils and groundwater are likely contaminated by petroleum products and possibly other hazardous materials while asbestos, lead paint and other contaminants are present in the buildings.