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County delegation votes to consider limited renovation of old nursing home

THE PLAN for the old county nursing home prepared by by Randy Remick of Bonnette, Page and Stone that proposed to keep one and a half wings and the core of the facility. The delegation rejected the plan on a 6-4 vote and asked for a new plan demolishing all wings and renovating only the core for under $1 million. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
August 25, 2011
OSSIPEE — One million dollars. That's the maximum dollar amount county delegates have set and instructed county commissioners not to exceed for plans to renovate the core of the old nursing home. Discussions over several months plus three hours on Monday finally came to a vote, with just 10 of the county's delegates present.

The Carroll County Delegation is made up of the county's 14 state representatives and is charged with setting budgets and authorizing expenditures for all county departments.

The county commissioners have maintained throughout the discussion of tearing down the old home that they would like to keep the core and at least one and a half wings and demolish two and a half wings. On Monday the delegates nixed the idea of keeping any of the wings and directed commissioners to get a clear cost and plan prepared for the core of the building only.

Plans presented by Randy Remick of Bonnette, Page and Stone show that the intended use for the core would be housing the Carroll County branch of the UNH Cooperative Extension, the pellet burner/boiler room, the county laundry facility, electrical room, maintenance shop, and keeping the kitchen and dining room. Delegates refused to commit to dedicating the office spaces to the Extension but rather asked the commissioners to formulate a renovation plan and budget that delegates could vote on and the Extension could decide if they could afford to rent.

Though past talks have revolved around whether Extension will be moving to the county complex, it is not the only reason for keeping the old nursing home building. When the plans were done for the new nursing home, set to open next month, it was decided that rather than build the maintenance, electrical, storage, laundry, and furnace space into the new home at today's price per square foot higher costs, these components would remain in the old home that the county already owns outright. Current delegates, who were delegates back when Extension had to find a new rent after their space in Center Ossipee was no longer suitable, are quick to remind their fellow delegates that the Extension was promised their move to Conway was only temporary and within five years they would be back in Ossipee and on the county complex.

Mark McConkey (R-Ossipee) pointed out Monday that even though past boards have voted to move the Extension back to Ossipee, that does not bind the current delegation to follow their wishes. He added that he is "very much in favor" of the Extension moving to the county complex but "only if they can afford the rent and taxpayers can afford to have them here."

Commission Chairman David Sorensen maintained his argument that the county should keep a section of one of the wings for additional storage in the future and a full wing for possible future uses including office space for the probation department, as a possible emergency shelter or perhaps a privately operated daycare center.

McConkey argued it is not the function of the county to expand beyond its current role and there are no agreements with any other agencies, which make the possibilities amount to nothing more than a wish list. He also took offense to the notion that the delegation has been delaying the decision of what to do with the building. "Let's belly up to the bar and get this done," he said.

Remick, at the request of commissioners, presented a preliminary cost study to the delegation Monday that worked out to be between $1.5 million and $1.8 million to renovate, reconstruct some of the existing space, and replace the roof. This figure surprised Sorensen who told delegates he would be in favor of $1 million, but a number higher than that is unacceptable.

Steven Schmidt (R-Wolfeboro) called the old building a "bottomless money pit" and said he would like to see the whole building torn down. In its place, he suggested building a metal building to house the necessary minimum components.

Frank McCarthy (R-Conway), who has been adamant that the Extension belongs in Conway and not back in Ossipee, called the idea of spending $1 million to renovate the facility "ludicrous" and questioned how long it would take the county to break even on their investment.

Joseph Fleck (R-Wakefield), who served on the subcommittee charged with studying the future use of the old home, told the group 'We have a fiduciary responsibility not only for the funds but for the building. Don't just tear it down to prove a point…It is one thing to build for yesterday or for today's needs. We need to look at the future."

In the end the vote to direct commissioners to create a plan and cost estimate up to $1 million that includes the demolition of all wings and renovation of the core of the building passed 6-4 with Fleck, David Knox (R-Wolfeboro), McCarthy, Harry Merrow (R-Ossipee), Betsey Patten (R-Moultonborough), and Karen Umberger (R-Conway) voting in favor and McConkey, Chris Ahlgren (R-Wolfeboro), Schmidt, and Norman Tregenza (R-Madison) voting against the idea. Prior to the vote, Patten tried to sway her fellow delegates to put off the vote until their next meeting when more delegates could be in attendance. Absent were Dino Scala (R-Wakefield), Laurie Pettengill (R-Glen), David Babson (R-Ossipee) and Gene Chandler (R-Bartlett). Three of those absent are usually at delegation meetings but Chandler is rarely in attendance. In the period of 2009 to Monday's meeting, the delegation has held 24 meetings and Chandler has attended nine of those.

As of press time, the county business office had not been made aware of when the next delegation meeting will be held.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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