EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 2, 2012

Rausch: National Guard unlikely to buy Windham land

By John Toole

---- — WINDHAM – Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, said it’s unlikely the National Guard will be able to put a $20 million complex on the Applewood golf course property near the crossroads of Route 111 and Interstate 93.

“They will not have the resources to pursue that,” Rausch said.

The state would have to come up with $3 million, the value of the property, to reimburse the federal highway fund, he said.

“In this environment, that seems very unlikely,” Rausch said.

Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan has told state agencies and departments to set their funding sights lower.

“While we are beginning to see recovery and revenue growth, we will face continued difficult fiscal times in the coming two years,” Hassan said. “We must be prepared to continue to make tough, fiscally responsible decisions to ensure that we can invest in our priorities, including protecting the health and safety of our citizens and building an innovative economy that will ensure long-term growth.”

Rausch agreed with Hassan’s assessment about budget challenges.

“It’s going to be a very difficult cycle again,” he said.

The national Guard has been evaluating several potential sites throughout the state. In September, Rausch told selectmen the National Guard had rated the Windham property its best option for a facility to maintain vehicles.

Using federal funds, the state Department of Transportation had acquired the 29-acre property for potential use in connection with roadwork. The golf course operator had leased the property.

But DOT no longer needs the land and is trying to sell it. The process requires DOT to offer the land first to town and state agencies, which is how the national Guard became interested.

But opposition surfaced early in Windham. Community leaders have hopes the property, in a prime commercial area, will be developed for business use, create jobs and help out the tax base.

Officials have emphasized they aren’t opposed to the National Guard locating in Windham, just not on that particular parcel.

Gov. John Lynn, in a recent interview, said Windham should have a say whether the National Guard establishes a facility in the community.

“I think it’s got to be with the support of the local community,” Lynch said.

Phillip Miles, chief of property management with the DOT, said the Applewood property is still on the market. The National Guard has not submitted any formal proposal, according to Miles.

The National Guard did not return a phone call.

Developers remain interested in the golf course land.

Karl Dubay, president of The Dubay Group Inc., a Windham-based engineering and planning company, expects a commercial proposal will emerge for Applewood.

“We are working with interested parties on the golf course property,” Dubay said Friday.