(The Center Square) – The 400-member New Hampshire House of Representatives has a big parking problem and a steep price tag to go along with it.
On Thursday, House members approved a plan to spend $35 million to demolish the House parking lot in downtown Concord and replace it with a new 600-space facility.
The proposal to build the garage was added as an amendment to another bill that seeks to expand regional vocational and technical education programs. He adopted voice voting.
The proposal, which must also pass through the state Senate and survive Governor Chris Sununu’s veto pen, also calls for the demolition of the Justice Department building adjacent to the State House and the existing parking lot. The measure does not include funding to rebuild the DOJ building, which includes the attorney general’s offices.
House lawmakers say the garage, which was built in 1974, has outlived its useful life and needs to be replaced to protect public safety.
Rep. Kate Murray, D-New Castle, said the garage was in a “serious state of disrepair” and pointed to the recent collapse of a garage in nearby Massachusetts that killed a worker.
“For years there have been discussions about the parking lot and whether it needs to be replaced,” she told fellow lawmakers. “But the can was always thrown on the road.”
Several Republican lawmakers have spoken out against the proposal, arguing that the state shouldn’t spend millions of dollars on a new garage.
“I know a new garage will have to be built,” State Rep. Louise Andrus, R-Salisbury, said in remarks ahead of the vote. “But I believe the time has not come and is not now.”
House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, presented the plan last month during a committee hearing where lawmakers discussed proposals to provide tax relief to taxpayers facing rising costs gas and fuel.
Packard said legislative leaders decided to fast-track the project after being told that the current downtown Concord garage’s lifespan was only about five years.
“Do I want to spend $35 million on parking? No. Do we have to? Yes,” Packard told members of the revenue committee during the hearing. “We can’t wait another year to put this on hold. I don’t want to be somewhere in three years where we don’t have room for our members to park.”