LACONIA — The state commission charged with planning the future of the former State School property needs about $850,000 to continue with its mission, the panel’s chairman, George Bald, told legislators last week.
Bald appeared before the Senate Finance Committee to make a budget request for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.
He said his Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission, created by the Legislature in 2017, is off to a good start preparing a plan for redevelopment of the 200-acre property at Meredith Center Road and North Main Street.
Bald said potential developers demand clarity and certainty regarding conditions at the site.
“The state previously considered giving this property away, but no one wanted to take on the uncertainty and the potential liabilities associated with the various known and unknown environmental problems at the site,” he said in his testimony.
The budget request includes $150,000 for conducting hazardous materials assessments of buildings at the site, $75,000 for a comprehensive boundary survey, $75,000 for additional site environmental investigations and removal of abandoned piping and storage facilities, $50,000 for historic resource surveys and $350,000 for use as “matching funds” to leverage grants or loans.
“There are environmental issues associated with almost every building on the property, as well as infrastructure issues relating to water, sewer, stormwater and roadways,” he said. “Our studies, communications with interested parties and experienced commissioners all tell us the private sector will not participate unless these issues are addressed and site conditions and constraints are made more clear and certain.”
Bald also noted that redevelopment of the property could ultimately reduce state expenses.
“As long as the site remains state property, the state will continue to be responsible for annual maintenance costs of $350,000 to $400,000,” he said. “In addition, the current water and sewer lines at the site are in poor condition and the ongoing groundwater infiltration into the existing sewer system is costing the state a great deal and will do so until the old piping is removed and new infrastructure is installed.”
The panel has been discussing a proposal that could include a sports complex, a 150-room hotel, 225 homes, 120 market rate apartments or townhomes, 10,000 square feet of retail, a 7,500 square foot restaurant and up to 15,000 square feet of commercial office space.