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Mayor upset over handling of school sale

The Laconia Daily Sun
Published: 8/11/2021 9:42:46 PM

A move by the state to contract with a broker to sell the Laconia State School property as quickly as possible is an injustice to the city, according to Mayor Andrew Hosmer.

The state just recently officially advertised for a commercial real estate firm to find a buyer for the 213-acre property and 27 buildings in a “relatively rapid ‘as-is’ sale,” according to the request for proposal posted on the state Department of Administrative Services website.

The move by the agency disregards the effort to market the property that is being done by the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission – a volunteer panel established by the Legislature in 2017 to come up with a comprehensive plan to market the complex for private development.

“I am disappointed by the governor’s attempt to sell the property without any input or collaboration from the Lakeshore Commission or the city of Laconia,” Hosmer said Monday. “This parcel is critical to the future development of the city.”

The city is concerned that quick sale could result in a buyer developing just the more lucrative land that fronts on North Main Street and leaving the rest of the property to lie fallow. The city, on the other hand, wants a more comprehensive mixed-use type of development, which would include housing.

Hosmer offered his reaction to the state’s move just hours before Executive Councilor Joe Kenney and Lakeshore Commission Chair George Bald were scheduled to meet with the Hosmer and the City Council to hear the city’s concerns about seemingly being shut out of the process.

“This came out of left field,” Hosmer said of the RFP. “It’s short-sighted by the governor,” he added, stressing that his disagreement is over the policy Gov. Chris Sununu is pursuing. “This is about policy, not politics,” he said.

Hosmer also faulted the members of the county Legislative Delegation, and the city’s five representatives in the state House in particular, for being silent on the issue, especially when the governor added language to an addendum of the state budget giving the executive branch sweeping authority to dispose of the property.

As with any state property, the State School complex cannot be sold without the approval of the Executive Council, made up of five elected councilors, with the governor serving as chair.

In seeking proposals from real estate brokers, the state says the property is being “offered for sale ‘as-is,’ in its current condition with all faults.”

The Lakeshore Commission has engaged a consulting firm to determine the extent of hazardous materials, such as lead paint and asbestos, in the buildings, and is awaiting that report. A separate study found some soil on the property was tainted with hazardous materials. That soil has since been removed to an approved disposal site, according to the commission.

The aim of the state’s independent effort is to dispose of the property quickly, according to the language in the proposal.

The process outlined in the RFP “... allow(s) the state increased flexibility to negotiate a relatively rapid ‘as-is’ sale of the property notwithstanding the ongoing activities of the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission,” the posting reads.

A showing of the property for prospective bidders is scheduled to take place today at 10 a.m., according to the posting. Gared Nylund, a real property asset manager for the state Department of Administrative Services, said Monday he will be there, but was unsure if any brokers would show up. However, he said that interested parties often do not bother notifying the state ahead of time that they plan to attend.

Lakeshore Commission Chairman Bald said the commission will continue doing its work which it feels is essential to attract developers.

He said there are “four or five” parties that are currently interested in the State School property. If, through the RFP process, the state ends up awarding a contract to a broker to market the complex, Bald said the commission would direct those parties who have approached the commission to continue their discussions with the broker.

But otherwise, Bald does not see the commission changing the way it is operating.

“(The Department of Administrative Services) is doing what the governor is telling it to do, and we’re going to continue doing what the Legislature has told us to do,” Bald said.

The state last tried to sell the property 10 years ago. The only offer it received was for $2 million from the city, an offer which the state ignored.

Since then the state has spent $4 million in providing minimal maintenance of the buildings and grounds, according to Hosmer.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.



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