LACONIA — All 29 buildings that once made up the Laconia State School contain hazardous material, but the contamination is not as bad as had been feared, the panel that is working to redevelop the largely unused complex was told Tuesday.
“Every building has something that needs to be done,” Allan Mercier, field operations manager for RPF Environmental told the meeting of the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission. “It’s not necessarily going to be cheap. But it’s not as bad as one thought.”
Mercier’s overview of the hazardous materials situation was one of the items the commission dealt with during the two-hour meeting, which also included discussion about the possible construction of a roundabout at the entrance to the complex, as well as the need to determine if there are archeologically significant areas on the 250-acre site.
In his review, Mercier said asbestos, lead paint and mold was found in all the buildings. He also said PCBs were found in some of the buildings — either in window caulking, or light ballasts.
The newer concrete-block buildings have fewer hazardous-material issues, compared to the older brick structures, he said.
The Spaulding Building, a three-story brick structure built in 1915, has asbestos in its plaster walls, what Mercier called some minor lead paint problems, and mold. Mercier said if the building was to be renovated, the cost to remediate the hazardous materials could run anywhere from $50,000 to $350,000.
He said that, in general, the clean-up costs would be higher if a building is torn down rather than renovated.
The final report on the extent of hazardous materials throughout the complex is expected to be completed by Oct. 23, Mercier said.
Laconia Assistant Public Works Director Krista Larsen, and Planning Director Dean Trefethen informed the commission that the city is looking to have construction of a roundabout at Route 106 and Right Way Path included in the state’s next 10-year highway plan.
Jeff Hayes, executive director of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, said he anticipated about $5 million would be allocated for road construction projects in the Lakes Region under the forthcoming plan.
Trefethen said the roundabout idea has been submitted to the Transportation Committee for review, and that city officials are hoping to get support from the City Council for the plan.
The commission unanimously voted to support the proposal. But commission member Rusty McLear stressed it would be necessary for the city build support for the plan among the city’s residents.
“There needs to be a lot of communication between the city, community, and the state,” McLear said. “We need to get the community behind it.”
An archeologist reported that a preliminary review of 5½ acres is being planned for the first phase of the development. The next phase would be to dig test pits at several locations in that area to learn if there are any relics or signs of Native American or 18th or 19th century activity on the site, Gemma Hudgell, assistant director for archeology for the Northeast Archeology Research Center told the commission.
The commission authorized spending up to $12,400 for the center to do the detailed site exploration.
But commission member Gino Baroni cautioned that if similar detailed studies were to be required for 100 acres on the property, the cost for that analysis could run upward of $225,000. Though not opposed to spending the money if necessary, Baroni said he did not know where the commission would find that amount of money.
The commission was recently awarded a $1 million grant to begin actual development. But the commission will only get those federal funds if it can raise another $1 million in matching grants. The commission has until next Sept. 30 to raise the additional $1 million.