LACONIA – State Rep. Peter Spanos has submitted legislation that if adopted would provide $1 million dollars 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 on which he serves. It is charged with 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 Senators Chuck Morse and Harold French. Commission Chairman George Bald said he hopes the city of Laconia will lend its support to the legislative effort.
Spanos noted that the six co-sponsors of his bill are half Democrats and half Republicans, which bodes well for funding and the work to redevelop the site continuing regardless of which party may be in power.
The Lakeshore Redevelopment Commission, Bald noted, is the fourth such panel charged with identifying the best potential development alternates for the 235-acre site, but its predecessors all fell by the wayside. Beyond providing needed money, the Spanos bill would define what entity should continue the work once the commission sunsets in July, he 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,” Bald said.
Commissioner Robert Cheney described two “hot spots” of soil contamination identified. The first area tested positive for high lead, most likely as a result of lead-based paint. In the second area, possibly the site of a former dump, oily black soil was found that tested positive for lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and petroleum hydrocarbons.
The commission voted to spend about $23,500, including a $5,000 contingency, to have Nobis dig up the tainted soil and have it shipped to a disposal facility. It is estimated that approximately six drums of “classified waste” will be removed and another two drums of unclassified waste. Once the tainted soil is excavated and additional materials removed, samples will be analyzed in a laboratory to assure the contamination is gone.
Commissioner Gino Baroni questioned paying $5,500 to hire a sub-contractor for one day of excavation. He also said the contract should contain a clause that requires the commission to be notified before the contingency account is tapped with an explanation as to why it's needed.
Commissioner Spanos shared Baroni’s concerns, but said he believes the project is time sensitive and that there was value in that. The commission voted unanimously with George Hurt and Rusty McLear absent, to approve the contract including Baroni’s provisions. The work will be completed before the ground freezes.
In other business, Bald said, a commission subcommittee of himself, Cheney and Hurt will be working with N.H. 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. The park is under-utilized, Bald said, most likely as a result of the fact that it offers no services other than a portable toilet.
As future plans call for new housing at the State School site, it would be logical to develop other facilities at the adjacent park to make it more attractive to visitors and families, he said.
The commission also discussed the need to identify hazards such as asbestos, lead paint, mold and sources of PCBs in the remaining buildings at the site and the scope of a contract to have that work performed.
Commissioner Cheney said there isn't enough money to investigate all 28 of the buildings on the property. Commissioner Chris Shumway suggested a group of buildings of similar age and design be done first, including the Blood, Baker, Felker and Keyes buildings, along with the warehouse and a few buildings most recently used by the N.H. Department of Corrections.
Which buildings will be selected for the preliminary hazard assessment will be discussed during the commission's next meeting Dec. 3 at 9 a.m. at Rist-Frost Shumway Engineering, 71 Water St., Laconia.