By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, June 26, 2009
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
The state Legislature voted Wednesday on the proposed capital budget and the $14.5 million Hampton Beach redevelopment project, which includes the Seashell Stage, is good to go.
"We are all very excited," said Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton. "It's a great day for Hampton Beach, the town of Hampton and state of New Hampshire. This is going to make Hampton Beach the crown jewel of the state parks."
The state's capital budget passed on a voice vote and it not only includes funding for the redevelopment project, but also another $1 million to repair another section of the deteriorating seawall at North Beach.
The $14.5 Million project will pay for the construction of two new bathrooms facilities — one at the Marine Memorial and another near Haverhill Street — as well as a new Seashell Stage complex.
The new complex will include new bath houses, a first- aid station, a lifeguard station, maintenance garage and the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce visitors' center.
The main attraction will be the brand-new Seashell Stage, which would have 800 seats and replace the one that was built in 1962.
State Rep. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, said a real team effort went into getting the project approved that involved the entire Hampton delegation, including Executive Councilor Bev Hollingworth and the Hampton Beach Area Commission.
The beach commission, spearheaded by Chairman John Nyhan, has been working behind the scenes for the last six months lobbying for the project.
"I truly think this was a great community win for all of us," Nyhan said. "We knew this was going to be an uphill fight and, as a community, we rallied. That was one of the main reasons why this project got approved."
Rep. Susan Kepner, D-Hampton, said the project is going to be a big boost to the businesses at the beach, as well as tourism in New Hampshire.
"This is a win-win for the town and the state," said Rep. Rusty Bridle, R-Hampton. "I think everyone involved is looking forward to seeing the shovels in the ground and getting this project going."
Rep. Chris Nevins, R-Hampton, said the one argument that really sold the project was that it was going to generate income for the state. Economist Lawrence Goss, brought in by the beach commission to promote the project's advantages, predicted the state would make an additional $2.6 million per year in taxes and fees.
"The state is hurting for money and this is a project that is going to help bring some in," Nevins said. "Indeed, it's a capital project, but it's one that will pay for itself and more down the road."
In addition to the $14.5 million in the capital budget, Nyhan said the project will also get $3 million in federal economic stimulus funds through the state Department of Transportation.
He said he is hopeful that they will have enough money to also complete the proposed visitors' center at the state park.
"Our hope is that all the permitting for the project can be done quickly and we can see a shovel in the ground as early as the fall," Nyhan said.
The project will be constructed in phases with the first phase being construction of the two new bath housees.