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Judge to Decide Fate of Laconia State School Trust Funds

Posted: December 28, 2017

Judge to Decide Fate of Laconia State School Trust Funds
December 28, 2017
NH Union Leader

DHHS request: $156k remains 26 years after it closed.

By BEA LEWIS
Union Leader Correspondent

LACONIA — Twenty-six years after the Laconia State School closed, nearly $156,000 in trust funds established to benefit former residents remain unspent.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services has filed a petition with the 6th Circuit Court, Probate Division in Concord to alter terms of the trusts so that the money can begin helping those with needs not covered by Medicaid.

Attorney Tom Donovan, head of the Attorney General’s Charitable Trust Division, told the court the intent is to merge seven funds and use the pooled money to pay for dental work, clothing, transportation and home repairs for people who once lived at the school before it closed in 1991.

Collectively, the funds totaled $155,559.84 as of Feb. 2017. The oldest trust was established in 1931, and the most recent was established in 1989.

“These were bequests and donations made by wellintentioned people,” Donovan said of the money in the funds.

If approved, request for money would be handled by 10 regional agencies that already provide services to the developmentally disabled, people with acquired brain disorders, and their families.

These agencies would make a recommendation to DHHS. The Division of Community-Based Care Services would have final say. The money would then be dispersed via vouchers issued by the state treasurer.

For many area residents, the Laconia State School is a distant memory. The institution was once the city’s largest employer. In the 1970s it housed 1,200 people with developmental disabilities and employed more than 800.

Opened in 1903 as the New Hampshire School for Feeble-Minded Children, it operated on land donated to the state until 1991, when it closed following years of controversy and litigation arising from the conditions at the institution and the treatment of its residents.

Shortly after, the center of the 250-acre campus was converted into a mediumsecurity prison, the Lakes Region Facility, which closed in 2009. Most of the 26 buildings on the campus were mothballed and the state has been trying to divest itself of the property ever since.

Two buildings at the northern end of the property remain in use as a “designated receiving facility,” housing people with developmental disabilities or acquired brain disorders found to have committed sexual offenses and pose a safety risk.

The property overlooking Lake Opechee and Lake Winnisquam has been appraised at $2.16 million, which in 2012 the city of Laconia agreed to pay, but the offer was declined. The state then began actively marketing the property but has not received an offer.

House Bill 340 established the Lakeshore Redevelopment Planning Commission charged with crafting a plan to guide future redevelopment of the property. The blue-ribbon panel recently issued a request for proposals for firms interested in providing strategic planning services.

The deadline for submitting proposals is Jan. 18.

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