By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The City Council this week agreed to proceed with designing and engineering the structural repairs and improvements to the downtown parking garage at a cost of $150,000, without an assurance that the owner of the private section of the garage will bear the cost of repairing its share of the facility.
The ramps and north end of the second and third levels, including the northernmost stairwell, are owned by the city. The ground floor of the garage, except for the ramps, and the south end of the second and third levels, including the southernmost stairwell, along with seven commercial units on the ground level, are privately owned.
City officials have expressed their willingness to repair, even improve, the publicly owned section of the garage "in cooperation with a willing partner."
But, as yet, Downtown Crossing LLC, the current owner, and Genesis Behavioral Health, the prospective buyer, of the private portion of the garage have yet to reach an arrangement that would enable one or the other to bear the cost of repairing that section of the facility, which is estimated to be $290,000. City Manager Scott Myers projected the cost of repairing and improving the entire garage, including adding an elevator, at about $2.9 million.
"So we're spending $150,000 without knowing if the project will come to fruition?" asked Mayor Ed Engler.
If Downtown Crossing LLC and Genesis come to agreement and the property is sold, Genesis seeks to begin converting the space currently leased to the Grace Capital Church to house its administrative offices and clinical services in October. The acquisition and conversion of the property would be financed by a $5.5 million bond issued by the New Hampshire Health and Educational Facilities Authority. Maggie Pritchard, executive director of Genesis, explained that because the agency will be paying a higher rate of interest on the borrowing than the funds will earn on deposit, the project should be completed as soon as possible.
But, before work could begin on the privately owned section of the facility, some $600,000 worth of repairs to the city-owned section must be completed, which would require work to begin in July.
Bob Durfee of Dubois & King Inc. said that design and engineering would enable the city to put the project out to bid by April 1 in anticipation of starting work in July. The cost of designing and engineering the repairs to the portion of the garage owned by the city is $120,000 while the balance would apply to the privately owned share of the facility together with the planning required to install an elevator.
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