SALEM — With a simple pen stroke, Gov. Maggie Hassan has opened the door to $17 million in infrastructure improvements in Salem.
When Hassan signed a $245 million capital budget into law last week, she authorized construction of a $5.4 million liquor store on Route 28 and nearly $12 million in Salem school upgrades.
That includes $10.7 million to renovate the Center for Career and Technical Education at Salem High School — a program that attracts nearly 700 students from schools throughout Southern New Hampshire.
The state’s $17 million investment in Salem and its economy is a bright sign for the town, Selectmen’s Chairman Everett McBride Jr. said.
“I think it’s great,” McBride said of the funding. “It’s very positive news.”
Replacement of the approximately 10,000-square-foot liquor store with a new building is long overdue, McBride said. The store has been at 417 S. Broadway since 1965. It will remain at the same site.
“The liquor store is certainly outdated,” McBride said. “It will enhance the ability to bring in even more sales.”
The facility — one of 77 across New Hampshire — ranks fourth in annual sales at $22 million, according to state Liquor Commission administrator Craig Bulkley. The building is a former state police barracks not designed for retail, he said.
Constructing a new store, possibly double in size, is expected to significantly increase sales, Bulkley said. It would not open for a few years.
“We want to start as soon as possible,” he said. “Our objective is to build a new store while the old store still functions.”
The $17 million for Salem projects comes at a time when residents are wondering how to keep property taxes down and revitalize the community.
State lawmakers defeated an expanded gambling bill in May that could have brought a $600 million casino complex and 3,000 jobs to Rockingham Park.
In March, 81 percent of Salem voters supported a nonbinding casino referendum because they believed gambling would give the town the economic boost it desperately needed.