LACONIA — State Rep. Peter Spanos has submitted legislation that if adopted would provide $1 million annually over six years to advance the redevelopment of the former Laconia State School campus.
Spanos briefly detailed House Bill 20-2412 during a Monday meeting of the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission. The commission, on which Spanos serves, is charged with setting a course for the future use of the Laconia State School property.
Four members of the Belknap County Delegation have joined Spanos in co-sponsoring the bill along with Sens. Chuck Morse and Harold French. Commission Chairman George Bald said he hopes the city of Laconia will lend its support to the legislative effort.
The Lakeshore Redevelopment Commission, Bald said, is the fourth such panel charged with identifying the best potential development alternatives for the 235-acre site, noting the predecessors have all fallen by the wayside. Legislation that would provide funding and define which entity will continue the work once the commission sunsets in July is needed to ensure this commission is the last, Bald said.
The phase II environmental site assessment of the land has been completed by Nobis Group of Concord, and the results were better than expected.
“We’re really pleased. Before I took this job, I heard some real horror stories about an environmental catastrophe. I’m happy to learn that people took care of things,” said Bald.
Commissioner Robert Cheney described the two “hot spots” of soil contamination. The first area tested positive for high lead levels, possibly as a result of lead-based paint. The second area, in the southwest corner of the property behind some former shop buildings, possibly the site of a former localized dump, had oily black soil that tested positive for lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and petroleum hydrocarbons.
The commission voted to contract with Nobis and to spend approximately $23,500, which includes a $5,000 contingency to dig up the tainted soil, place it in specialized barrels and have it shipped to a facility for disposal. It is estimated that approximately six drums of “classified waste” and two drums of unclassified waste would be removed. After all of the tainted soil is excavated, additional material would be removed. Samples would then be taken and analyzed in a laboratory to ensure all of the contamination has been removed.
Commissioner Gino Baroni said he thought a $5,500 cost of hiring a subcontractor for one day of excavation was high. He also said the contract should contain a clause that 1) requires the commission to be notified before the contingency account is tapped and 2) requires listing the reason for why the money needs to be spent.
Spanos shared Baroni’s concerns but said he believes the project is time-sensitive. The commission voted unanimously, with George Hurt and Rusty McLear absent, to approve the contract, including Baroni’s provisions. The work is expected to be completed before the ground freezes.
In other business, Bald said, a commission subcommittee comprised of himself, Cheney and Hurt, will be working with state Division of Parks and Recreation and the Bureau of Trails to discuss future plans for Ahern State Park, which abuts the State School campus. The 128-acre park includes 3,500 feet of shoreline on Lake Winnisquam.
As proposed plans call for adding housing to the State School site, Bald said, it would be logical to develop other facilities at the park to make it more attractive to visitors and families.
The commission also discussed the need to develop a scope of work so that the needed documents can be completed to go out to state bid to hire a company to complete a hazardous waste assessment of at least some of the buildings on the property. Such an assessment would look to identify pollutants and hazards such as asbestos, lead paint, mold and potential sources of PCBs.
Cheney said there isn’t enough money to investigate all of the buildings on the property. Commissioner Chris Shumway suggested a group of buildings of similar age and design, such as Blood, Baker, Felker and Keyes, be done first, along with the warehouse and a few buildings most recently used by the state Department of Corrections.
Which buildings will be selected for the preliminary hazard assessment will be discussed during the commission’s next meeting on Dec. 3 at 9 a.m. at Rist-Frost Shumway Engineering, 71 Water St., Laconia.