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Nursing home subcommittee agrees to old home renovation plan

NURSING HOME SUBCOMMITTEE DELIBERATES the fate of the old nursing home building at its meeting last Monday, April 9. (Mellisa Seamans photo) (click for larger version)
April 12, 2012
OSSIPEE — After months of subcommittee work, there seems to finally be a plan for what to do with the old county nursing home. Now the plan just has to pass muster of the full county delegation. That group will meet next Monday, April 16 to set the 2012 salaries for elected officials and hear the delegation subcommittee's nearly $1 million recommendation for the old home.

Last year, the county delegation voted to allow the county commissioners to go to the drawing table and come up with a renovation plan for the core of the old home, not to exceed $1 million and not to include the home's four wings. The county commissioners worked with the firm Bonnette, Page, and Stone (BPS) to come up with a preliminary plan but that plan topped out at $1.8 million and the delegation wasn't willing to go along with the plan nearly double what they had authorized. A delegation subcommittee was formed and includes the Committee chair Mark McConkey (R-Freedom), Harry Merrow (R-Ossipee), Frank McCarthy (R-Conway), Steve Schmidt (R-Wolfeboro), Karen Umberger (R-Conway), and Laurie Pettengill (R-Bartlett) and they were charged with agreeing on what will become of the old home and presenting their idea to the delegation.

The committee met Monday, April 9, and after hearing a revised presentation from BPS and spending the morning in discussion and debate, they came to decision. McConkey had hoped for a unanimous decision but the vote ended up 5-1, with Pettengill being persuaded to go along with the group but McCarthy steadfastly maintaining vote in the negative.

The revised plan, with a cost of $980,000 calls for the demolition of the four wings and the work needed to patch up the holes left in the core building once those are torn off. The front of the core that once housed the home's administrative offices and entry way would also be torn off and a new façade put on the building. The plan also includes reroofing the core and making interior improvements to restructure the laundry area and maintenance and storage area. In addition to those services that will be housed in the old home, there is also the pellet boiler room and an additional 3,000 square feet of open space that could be renovated at a later date to accommodate a tenant.

There has been ongoing discussion about the UNH Cooperative Extension offices moving back to the complex from its current county-paid leased space in Conway Village. There has also been talk about probation moving to the complex from their rented space in Wolfeboro as well as at least preliminary consideration of whether part of the old home would be suitable for NH Dept. of Health and Human Services office or for the housing of homeless veterans.

McConkey tried to limit conversation on any possible tenants who might want to entertain the thought of renting space from the county. That was not the committee's charge when it was established but rather to decide if the building would remain standing at all and if renovations could be done for $1 million or less.

However, all through the process McCarthy has been opposed to renovations to the old home and that opinion hinges on the fact he doesn't want the Extension relocated from his home base in Conway to the county complex.

The other sticking point for McCarthy was that he couldn't get his fellow delegates to agree to add to the motion that any work to be done must go out to competitive bid. He wanted all segments of the renovation project to be bid out separately including the roof replacement, electrical work, and other needs. County Commissioner David Sorensen reminded the group that BPS is expecting to be hired on as the general contractor for the job and rolled their preliminary design costs into that expectation. If they were not hired to oversee the job and hire the subcontractors, they would be asking for payment for this design costs, Sorensen said.

McConkey tried to convince McCarthy that how the commissioners go about getting the job done once the delegation approves the money to pay for it is up to the commissioners. McCarthy wouldn't budge and voted against the renovation project. Pettengill initially said she would be voting no but after some massaging of the wording of the motion, Pettengill voted in favor along with McConkey, Merrow, Schmidt, and Umberger.

If the full delegation agrees with the subcommittee recommendation on April 16, the project will get underway. The contractor will first focus on the interior renovations and the roofing. As part of their vote, committee members have given the commissioners until Oct. 15 to negotiate rental agreements with any tenants who might be interested in renting all or part of the 3,000 square feet in the core building as well as any space in the wings. If there are no firm rental agreements in place, the subcommittee recommends that the demolition of the wings and front of the building commence on Oct. 15. "We'll make them tear it down," said Umberger.

Funding for the project can be paid for out of the money left over from the new nursing home project that came it at an estimated $3 million under budget.

Commissioner Dorothy Solomon told the subcommittee she has been and will continue to explore the possibility of working with the Veteran's Administration to turn part of the old home into a homeless shelter for veterans. She said there are an estimated 650 homeless veterans in the state, but that number is likely double.

Merrow said that is no one more concerned about homeless veterans than he is but he doubts the problem is that bad. "To the best of my knowledge we don't have a homeless veteran in Ossipee. You may have a problem up there (Conway) because I know your welfare budget is five times what it is in Ossipee," he said and added he wanted more information about the number of homeless veterans before he would support a future decision to create a shelter. He also wondered how many veterans are considered homeless that are not out on the streets but are living with parents or other family but because they are young adults are considered homeless.

McCarthy who said he has spent a lifetime in the military and serves on a number of veterans affairs committees in the NH State House said he thinks the need is "much exaggerated."

The April 16 delegation meeting is open to the public and will be held at 9 a.m. at the county administration building on Water Village Road in Ossipee.

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