LACONIA — The city has kicked the can down the road regarding the city’s downtown parking garage as far as possible, the City Council has been told.
Public Works Director Wes Anderson told the council Monday that unless the city spends money to strengthen and upgrade the structure soon it will have no choice but to tear it down.
“We’re at the point where we have to make a decision of whether to deconstruct it or rehabilitate it,” Anderson told the council Monday.
Anderson put the cost to bring the parking decks down and build a new roof over the commercial space on the ground level would be $2 million, while the price tag to refurbish the structure is estimated to be between $4.5 million and $6 million.
Councilor Bob Hamel, who chairs the council’s Land and Buildings Committee, asked that the council hold a public hearing on Sept. 13 on the plans and funding for the project.
City Manager Scott Myers has said that the cost to build a new garage would be in the neighborhood of $10 million.
Areas of the parking decks are being supported with cribbing, Anderson noted. He said the structure is scheduled for its next safety inspection next month.
“”It’s structurally sound if we crib it. If we can’t crib it any more it’s structurally unsound,” he pointed out.
The top deck of the garage was closed about five years ago because of structural problems, and parts of the second level are blocked off because they cannot safely support the weight of vehicles.
The garage was built to accommodate 250 cars. However only 105 spaces are currently usable, according to Anderson.
The city owns the second and third levels of the structure, while the ground level is privately owned.
Hamel said rehabilitation of the garage is necessary in light of the increased business activity in the downtown area.
“We’re going to need those spaces in the future,” he said.
Council Bruce Cheney also spoke in favor of rehabilitating the facility.
“The quicker we find the money to do this was can save our taxpayers money,” he said, noting the current low interest rates. But he cautioned that the council will need to be attentive to the public’s reaction.
“If we get a bunch of people (at the public hearing) saying no then we have to step back,” he said.