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Bill would slow sale of State School property

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — Legislation has been introduced that would change the process for selling the former Laconia State School on North Main Street by requiring that any transaction be reviewed and approved by the Long Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee, whose voting members include four senators, four state representatives and an appointee of the governor.

Rep. Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett), a former Speaker of the House who remains in the leadership of the House as chairman of the Public Works and Highways Committee and has long served on the Long Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee, sponsored the bill — House Bill 340. He has opposed the sale of the property since it was originally proposed in 2010.

The bill has been referred to the Public Works and Highways Committee, but a public hearing has yet to be scheduled.

The 20i6-2017 state budget directed the Department of Administrative Services to sell the property. The directive stipulated that the transaction would be subject to the requirements of RSA 4:40, the statute governing the sale or lease of state property, but exempted it from review and approval by the Long Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee. The committee would determine whether, as the statute reads, "the property is no longer needed by the state" and commission an appraisal of its value.
The entire property stretches over about 245 acres, divided into five parcels, three of which are leased to the city, and houses 27 buildings and several smaller structures. The main campus straddling Right Way Path consists of approximately 200 acres. The buildings and land are beset with environmental issues and numerous encumbrances, which diminish its value and appeal to prospective purchasers. The property was appraised for $2.16 million in 2012 and the state budget projected $2 million in revenue for its sale. However, the actual value of the property remains in question.
In the past the city has expressed interest in acquiring the property and in 2012 offered to purchase it for its appraised value, but the state declined the offer. If a private party makes an offer to purchase the property, Laconia, as the host municipality, would be given, under state law, an opportunity to match that offer.