State Senator Jeanie Forrester has proposed an amendment to an existing unrelated bill seeking to convert the 250-acre former Laconia State School and Lakes Region Prison into a substance abuse treatment and recovery center. The plan calls for seeking proposals and then selling or leasing the property.
Currently, the property has numerous environmental issues and is costing the state about $300,000 a year to keep the facility mothballed. The state budget includes $2M in revenue from the sale of the property. A few years back, Laconia offered to buy the property for $2.16M , but never received an official response from the state. The site has been vacant since the prison closed in 2009 and there are no known prospective buyers.
Perhaps Sen. Forrester jumped the gun just a bit, as the City of Laconia was not really aware of her plans and according to an article in today's Laconia Daily Sun,, city officials are not supportive and flat out don't want it.
The heroin and opioid crisis cannot be overstated and there is a severe lack of adequate treatment and rehabilitation centers. It seems though that Sen. Forrester's proposal may have more to do with her political aspirations than addressing the drug epidemic. She after all voted against medicaid expansion earlier this year which makes treatment and recovery benefits available to 6,000 substance abuse sufferers.
It seems to me that if she were truly interested in addressing this need, she would have met with Laconia City officials well in advance of the proposed bill amendment instead of blindsiding them and making a political splash as she eyes the Governor's office.