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Fire station should be much bigger priority than State School

To the editor,
First, I want to say how grateful I am to The Daily Sun and The Citizen for giving the public and its officials the opportunity to present their opinions, and the opportunity to inform the public of facts others may not be aware of. Without this input for anyone to express their views the public doesn't always have the facts.
My position today is to look at the purchase of the State Prison property, formerly known as the State School.
This has been on the back burner for several years and still many questions are unanswered and reasons for the city to spend tax dollars for the property are few and indefinite. I will not at this time enumerate the steps taken, deadlines, etc. I will just make a few observations.
Monday night at the council meeting, the last item to come up was a request to reinstate a bid to the state for this property. No new facts or plans were presented and it was decided to wait until the next meeting when we might have more information on just what it will cost to not only buy this property, but to get EPA funds to clean it up and then maintain the grounds, etc. At this time the Parks Department is overworked and undermanned taking care of all our new facilities and on the budget this year is money for a park at the Weirs. This too will demand maintenance and we have a $300,000 bond coming up to repair the Smith Track and this will require more attention. The additional acreage of the Prison Property will be another huge challenge or the addition of manpower and more money for maintenance.
Let's look at the EPA clean up. We received a memo from the planning director last night with the latest report from Enviro Vantage addressing the projected costs of removing hazards and contamination from this site. It is estimated that before demolition of buildings, the cost to clean up would be anywhere from $175,000 to $295,000.00 for one building. There are 25 buildings and they averaged it to be $200,000 per building. This comes to FIVE MILLION DOLLARS.
Further, there is NO guarantee we would get EPA funds. They allow up to $200,000 per site — no more than five sites per applicant. Supporters feel they can divide the property into five sites. Questionable. The city would have to be responsible for 20 percent of the cost.
You cannot even apply for EPA funds until you own the land.
In a non-public council meeting on January 23,2012 (minutes sealed for one year), it was decided to first protect the city, legally, from contaminants exposure, and second, in the event the city decided to go through with it, we needed this information to help us structure the offer.
If we bought the property and didn't receive EPA funds, we would have no such protection.
Lastly, we are in the midst of budget deliberations and have received an excellent review from the auditors as to our financial stability. We were given a flow sheet which shows our bond indebtedness and included is room for new fire station and/or purchasing this property.
The fire station is a priority necessary to our safety and has been on the list for several years. If we are willing to spend millions, should it be for our safety or for some unknown want.
Councilor Brenda Baer
Ward 4 - Laconia
 
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