George Bald

Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission Chairman George Bald, left, is shown in this file photo listening to testimony on a bill to create an authority to market and ultimately sell the former Laconia State School property to private developers. Seated next to Bald is Bob Cheney, the commissions vice chairman. The two men have lobbied the state Senate to make the bill a high priority during this legislative session which has been curtailed by the coronavirus. (File photo)

LACONIA — The head of the special commission that has been working to redevelop the old Laconia State School property is hopeful the Legislature will pass a bill which would create a development authority to market the property and ultimately sell it to private developers.

George Bald, who chairs the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission, said Tuesday morning he was optimistic the Senate would pass the measure, which was due to come up for a vote later in the day. A Senate committee recommended on a 5-0 vote that the legislation should pass. That, Bald said, was a good sign that the bill enjoys strong support in the Upper Chamber.

If the measure, which is now an amendment to another bill dealing with state property, passes the Senate, it will then go to the House, which is scheduled to hold its next session on June 30.

Bald said that more and more lawmakers think efforts to redevelop the 200-plus acre site make economic sense.

“It’s an asset that is being wasted,” Bald said. “The sooner it’s up and running then the sooner it will stop costing the state money.”

The goal is to privatize the property and thereby return it to the tax rolls.

The state says it costs about $400,000 a year to provide minimal maintenance for now-vacant buildings which once comprised the state institution for people with developmental disabilities, and later served as a prison for inmates convicted of non-violent crimes.

Bald credited Laconia Mayor Andrew Hosmer for working hard to build support among lawmakers for the creation of the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Authority.

Hosmer singled out Bald and Commission Vice Chair Bob Cheney for their efforts in convincing the Senate leadership that the Lakeshore Authority bill be considered as a high-priority matter. Hosmer, a former state senator, added that he and state Rep. Peter Spanos of Laconia will be lobbying to build support for the bill among House members.

“It’s a challenge, that’s for sure,” Hosmer said of the bill’s chances in the 400-member House. “We’re going to fight to get this over the finish line.”

The vote in the Senate was to come hours after the Lakeshore Commission met.

Bald told the meeting that the Northern Border Regional Commission has accepted the Lakeshore Commission’s application for a $1 million grant. If approved funds will be used toward rebuilding the water and sewer lines on the property.

“If we get the grant it will get things up and running,” Bald said.

He said with the efforts being made to rebuild the property's infrastructure, private developers will begin to take to take notice and their interest in the project will become “more serious.”

During the meeting Bald said that the commission will be seeking $13.6 million through the state’s capital projects bill. But he noted the actual amount of capital funding the commission would receive would be less than $13.6 million. “I expect we will get other funds,” Bald said as to how the commission would make up the difference.

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