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Sell the school: Wasted space in Laconia

September 20. 2018 11:08PM

For 27 years, the 200-acre campus of the closed Laconia State School has sat mostly unused.

And for all that time, state and local officials have dreamt of economic development, but have never been able to reach a consensus on what to do.

A blue-ribbon commission convened this week in Laconia in the latest attempt to repeat the state’s success in turning the closed Pease Air Force Base into a hub of business activity.

Senate President Chuck Morse, who pushed the commission though the Legislature, wants to prioritize economic development, as does Mayor Ed Engler. But Engler doesn’t want just any development.

Specifically, Engler is worried about building more senior housing in a city already dealing with aging demographics.

Some residents want to use the land for farming, others open space or a sports complex. We have a proven way to get the most out of vacant land: the real estate market.

Rather than leave the future of the Laconia State School property to central planners, why not let the private sector bid on the land, and shoulder the risks inherent in developing it?

This doesn’t guarantee success. The former Daniel Webster College campus remains a ghost town nearly a year after a Chinese university bought it at auction.

Opening the Laconia property to private investors beats sticking with a process that has done nothing for 27 years.


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