Editor’s Note: The GOEFRR Meeting referenced below was rescheduled from Nov. 17 to Nov. 23. Details below.
O P I N I O N
I heard there’s $38 million in federal CARES Act money left on the table and only weeks left to spend it.
I love a good shopping challenge!
On Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. the Governor’s Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery is meeting to decide how to spend it, so they don’t have to send it back to Uncle Sam. It’s what’s left of the $1.25 billion New Hampshire received to help with COVID-19 fallout.
I have an idea.
There are lots of industrial buildings for sale around the state right now because, hey, times have been rough. Some of them seem ideal for a longer-term solution to stabilizing the unsheltered. In advance, I want to say that I’m working off a commercial properties Real Estate listing site called LoopNet, and maybe some of these properties are already in negotiation or spoken for. These are just some obvious examples.
I also want to mention that when I checked the GOEFRR spreadsheet from May, in the space next to “Homeless Issues” – which is the last line item on the spreadsheet, it was blank. Maybe it was just overlooked. I’m not sure, but this could also be a great way to fill that spreadsheet. Anyone who’s made a spreadsheet knows how great it feels to fill in all the blanks.
- For starters, there’s a vacant industrial building in Bedford at 10 Iron Horse Drive that’s up for sale for a cool $5.9 million. It’s 157,336 square feet on 9.76 acres located in a commercial area near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. So in other words, NIMBY shouldn’t be a problem. Gov. Sununu in 2018 nominated 27 tracts to be designated as Opportunity Zones, part of a federal program that encourages economic development and investment. And this is one of those. If the state were to negotiate a deal here, there’d still be some money left to fit it up for emergency shelter, short-term stays, and maybe even longer-term transitional spaces. It would create jobs, to fix it up and to man it.
2. There’s another little parcel of land at 44 Chenell Drive in Concord, going for $2.2 million. It’s a 21,000 square foot building, it’s not far from the Salvation Army Thrift Store, so maybe they could help out. The building isn’t much to look at right now, but for only $2.2 million, that leaves a lot of money leftover to perk it up.
3. On the Seacoast there’s a place for sale at 6 Airfield Drive in Rye. For $5.4 million you get 55,791 square feet to work with. It’s the former home of Rye Airfield Skate Park, which made the decision recently to sell, not because of COVID but in search of a larger space, according to their website. It’s certainly attractive looking and might even be close to the beach.
4. Up in Conway there’s a warehouse, also in an Opportunity Zone at 209 Hobbs St. It’s just $1,150,000 on 4.4 scenic acres with 46,000 square feet of warehouse space. This works out great with the state’s MyGoNorth.com promotion, which is encouraging people to head north for employment opportunities. That might mean there are jobs readily available for homeless folks ready to employ for the winter season.
5. No list of big spaces to address the homeless crisis would be complete without the former Police Station in Manchester at 351 Chestnut St. The building, once owned by the city, was sold for a song and is right across the street from the encampments at the state-owned Hillsborough County Courthouse, where dozens of “campers” have been squatting. The state posted a notice for them to vacate by Nov. 16, and although nothing has happened, as yet, there is a sense that the state is going to move anyone who hasn’t already vacated the property by tomorrow. It would be an easy move for state police. Really just a matter of walking people across the street, maybe giving them a hand with their personal belongings. Although I know the city has never liked the idea of buying it back for more than they sold it for, perhaps the state would consider purchasing it and helping set up a comprehensive shelter complex with in-house counseling and job-readiness, working hand-in-hand with Families in Transition, which is also right around the corner.
With $38 million on the table, heck, the state could buy up a couple of these properties and finally have some concrete long-term projects for which to direct state funding for affordable housing and homelessness. And there are lots more listings, these are just a few that caught my eye, to get the ball rolling. Time is ticking. At the very least, any one of them could be made into emergency shelters for the winter without a lot of bells and whistles. Just cots and supplies.
The state’s 211NH referral system right now isn’t working as it was designed. People are supposed to be able to call and find shelter. Problem is, there’s no place to send them. This would solve that problem, at least for this pandemic winter.
Making strides in eliminating homelessness and having a cutting-edge program in place would also go a long way to help boost our economy, particularly in Manchester, which has been burdened for too long with the weight of New Hampshire’s homeless population, for whom there are few options, especially this winter.
UPDATE: The GOFERR meeting of the Bipartisan Legislative Advisory Board scheduled for Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. has been postponed to Monday, November 23, 2020, at 4 p.m.
Monday, November 23, 2020
GOFERR Meeting of the Bipartisan Legislative Advisory Board
Below are the members of the GOEFRR legislative advisory board. If you feel like sharing this article with them, it might give them a nudge to weigh in on how the rest of NH’s CARES Act money is spent, hopefully in a way that creates a statewide plan for homelessness, creates jobs and opportunities for unemployed residents and those who have been struggling with homelessness, and opens up opportunities around the state. Although the governor has executive power on spending the money, I think this should be on everyone’s agenda.
- Senate President Donna Soucy Donna.Soucy@leg.state.nh.us
- Speaker of the House Steve Shurtleff firstname.lastname@example.org
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Morse Chuck.Morse@leg.state.nh.us
- House Minority Leader Richard Hinch email@example.com
- Senate Finance Committee Chairman Lou D’Allesandro Lou.Dallesandro@leg.state.nh.us
- Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member John Reagan John.Reagan111@gmail.com
- House Finance Committee Chairwoman Mary Jane Wallner Maryjane.Wallner@leg.state.nh.us
- House Finance Committee Ranking Member Ken Weyler firstname.lastname@example.org
- House Finance Committee Ranking Member Erin Hennessey email@example.com
Below is the Governor’s Office of Emergency Relief and Recovery Staff, if you have an “in” with anyone on the staff, share away.
- Joseph Doiron, Deputy Director
- Nancy Smith, General Council
- Rhonda Hensley, Executive Administrator
- Lisa English, Asst. Director for Policy & Intergovernmental Affairs
- Shaun Thomas, Asst. Director for Policy & Disbursements
- John Frasier, Senior Auditor
- Steve Giovenilli, Asst. Director for Finance & Accounting
- Kate Giaquinto, Communications Director
- Alex Fries, Asst. Director of External Affairs
- Wendy Gilman, Compliance Officer
And here is the GOEFRR Stakeholder Advisory Committee list:
- Chairwoman Donnalee Lozeau, CEO, Southern NH Community Action Program (CAP), former Mayor of Nashua
- Bill Ardinger, Attorney, Rath, Young & Pignatelli
- Dean Christon, Executive Director, NH Housing Finance Authority
- Jim Jalbert, President & Owner, C&J Trailways
- Amy LaBelle, Owner, LaBelle Winery
- Al Letizio Jr., A.J. Letizio Sales & Marketing
- Scott Mason, Owner/Farmer, Northwind Farms
- Michelle McEwen, President & CEO, Speare Memorial Hospital of Plymouth
- Nancy Merrill, Director of Planning & Development, City of Claremont
- Hollie Noveletsky, CEO, Novel Iron Works
- Kathleen Reardon, CEO, NH Center for Non-Profits
- Ben Wilcox, President and General Manager, Cranmore Mountain Resort
- Lisa Drabik, Town Manager, Town of Londonderry
- Jeffrey Meyers, Guidehouse
Finally, I couldn’t find a direct email address for Gov. Sununu, but here’s contact information from the governor’s website.
Contact the Office of the Governor at 603-271-2121.
- Share My Opinion
- Request Assistance
- Invite the Governor to an Event
- Request a Proclamation
- Request a Birthday Card