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Babson pushes for Extension offices to move to county complex

December 02, 2010
OSSIPEE — A move to the county complex would put all county operations in one location, said NH Rep. David Babson, and there is plenty of support for the UNH Cooperative Extension Office to do just that.

The Extension office has been bounced around for the past dozen or so years. First, it was located in Conway Village in the Majestic Theater building. It then moved to Center Ossipee in the large building next to the post office. When the lease there came up for renewal, UNH would not extend it unless handicap accessibility changes were made, including a wheelchair ramp. This would have required a substantial investment on the part of the landlord or the county and would have cut into the already limited parking space at the building. Additionally, according to Babson, the rent was "going to at least double," so county commissioners and the delegation voted to move the office back to Conway. The Extension is now in Conway Village in the former Granite State College building.

The Conway lease is set to expire in 2012 and with a rent of about $40,000 per year, the Extension advisory board is recommending they move to the existing nursing home once the new one is complete and empty.

The old home will still house the laundry facilities for the county complex and the pellet heating system for the new home. But, Babson said, with some modifications, the front section of the old home would work perfectly for the Extension's needs.

There is a capital reserve fund established with the intent to use it for those modifications. Money from the fund has already been used to fund architectural sketches to the tune of $14,000. Babson attends the weekly commissioner's meetings and makes sure to ask if there's been any movement or thought given to moving the Extension office to the county complex. He said he doesn't want the idea to slip away or get put on the back burner just because the county is in the middle of its largest construction project in its history with the new nursing home. He said it will take about a year to complete the necessary renovations and the process needs to move swiftly before the lease in Conway expires.

Saving money, said Babson, isn't the only reason for the push to move the offices back to the county complex. The acres of county-owned land, he said, make it the perfect place for Extension-focused activities such as forestry endeavors, educational purposes, gardening, etc.

Babson will likely keep the issues on the agenda at county commission and county delegation meetings in the coming weeks as the 2011 operating budget is reviewed and finalized.

In fact it was brought up at the commission's morning meeting Nov. 24 with the decision to wait it out until the delegation meets Dec. 6 to gauge their feeling on moving the Extension office. "It makes perfect sense to move the Extension to the county campus but we need direction from the delegation. They may say they want to move it or they may say we like paying $40,000 a year in rent," said Commissioner Chip Albee.

According to their website, UNH Cooperative Extension "provides practical educational research based programs and assistance to people of all ages… educators provide non-formal education programs in Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources, Family and Consumer Resources, Community, and 4-H Youth Development."

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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