Budget plan upgrades air field, adds liquor store

CONCORD – A key House panel on Wednesday endorsed a two-year, $127 million public works budget that for Nashua would build a new liquor store, equip a new motor vehicle substation and park-and-ride depot and make renovations to Boire Field.

The House Public Works and Highways Committee recommendations were $13 million less than those of Gov. John Lynch.

But the committee’s decision to trim $83 million in local school construction grant payments from this capital budget (HB 25) meant House members had plenty of money to spend on other construction projects across the state.

“We’ve added projects in all 10 counties and a total of 20 towns,” said state Rep. David Campbell, D-Nashua, and vice chairman of the committee. “We believe that, like the federal stimulus money, this is a budget that can provide an economic boost to construction at a time every state needs it.”

The committee recommended the revised capital budget, 17-0, and it goes to the House for a final vote next week. “Every member agreed with the decision of taking school building aid out of the capital budget and understood the consequences that flowed from that,” said Rep. Candace Bouchard, D-Concord, who chairs the House panel.

House Finance Committee Chairwoman Marjorie Smith, D-Durham, predicted the state Senate later this spring would find a home for the school building grants, but she supported the House committee’s decision.

The new $4.8 million liquor store on Coliseum Avenue would be built behind an existing one that faces revenue-growth problems because of its limited parking, according to Mark Bodi, state Liquor Commission chairman.

Once the new store is built, the prefab building store will be torn down and the state will use that spot for parking, Bodi told the committee.

The state Liquor Commission estimates the new store would increase sales 25 percent or $3 million a year.”The payback to the state could be as short as two years,” Campbell said.

Lynch suggested $10 million for two new liquor stores in his capital budget, but he left it to the Liquor Commission as to where they would be built.

The House plan would also spend $250,000 in state bonds to convert the Welcome Center at Exit 6 in Nashua into a Motor Vehicle Substation and E-ZPass customer service center.

The state Division of Motor Vehicles can then move out of leased space in Merrimack and shared State Police barracks space in Milford, Campbell said.

In turn, the proposal uses $300,000 that allows a Nashua-to-Boston bus service to move from Exit 6 in Nashua to a park-and-ride lot off Exit 8.

The money would build a small depot for bus customers to buy tickets and stay inside during inclement weather. “We’re not talking about an elaborate building here, but we feel like these two changes really make the Welcome Center a full-functioning location,” Campbell added.

Lynch’s budget had included $1 million for an addition to the Welcome Center.

State support in this budget of $2.5 million at the state’s 11 regional airports, including one in Nashua, would leverage $51 million in federal grants.

“The airport money is critical. We heard from local officials all over the state for this,” said Rep. John Graham, R-Bedford.

Other major projects added to the House capital budget were a $34 million National Guard training site in Pembroke, a $14 million renovation to the Hatch Shell pavilion at Hampton Beach, two community college buildings in Keene and Concord and renovations to technical high schools in Littleton and Wolfeboro.