Eastman Expansion Questioned: Community Considers $5.7 Million Center Upgrade
Jazz trumpeter Tiger Okoshi performs during the season finale of Jazz on a Sunday Afternoon at the Center at Eastman in Grantham, N.H., on April 6, 2014. On April 12, Eastman's council will vote on a $5.7 million proposal to renovate and expand the Center at Eastman.(Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Grantham — Some residents of Eastman, a private residential community, are raising questions about a proposed $5.7 million renovation and expansion of the community’s main facility, which includes a public restaurant and golf pro shop.
In addition to upgrading the heating and air conditioning system with a geothermal system, improvements to the Center at Eastman would include redesigning the interior layout and foot traffic flow and renovating the lobby and creating separate entrances for deliveries and people.
Resident George Decker said he’s heard from several residents who question the project’s merits. He emailed various residents over the weekend, raising concerns about the project’s payoffs, calling parts the plan “wasteful and unnecessary.”
“I think what the problem is, we don’t have the full picture, and I think that’s why a lot of residents are not happy with the informational materials that we’ve been provided,” he said.
The Eastman Community Association membership includes 1,500 residences in Grantham, Enfield and Springfield, N.H. who pay membership fees for services and amenities. Eighty-five council members will vote on the proposal April 12 at a meeting that is open only to Eastman members.
A committee spent two years studying the concept and considered two other designs: a $2.8 million project that would not increase the size of the 14,000-square-foot building and a $3.6 million that would increase it by 2,000 square feet. They are recommending the $5.7 million project, which would expand the building by 10,000 square feet.
“When you come into the building you get lost immediately,” said Ken Ryder, CEO and General Manager of the Eastman Community Association, which owns the center. “Especially if you don’t know the building, (then) you don’t know where the restaurant is, you don’t know where the pro shop is.”
Ryder said the committee decided against the smaller proposals because they “didn’t fix everything” at once. For the smallest plan, he said, “you’d probably walk in the building and wouldn’t even notice the difference,” and for the medium project, “there would be a difference, but it wouldn’t solve the building efficiency” issues, he said.
If the proposal passes, the council will decide between two financing plans, one of which includes refinancing a previous loan to borrow a total of $7 million. In both plans, the increase in annual membership fee for about two-thirds of residents would be $93 in the first year and increase to $103 by the fourth year.
Under one scenario, the other one-third of residents would pay an additional $250 a year because they had paid upfront for the previous loan.
Decker said he’s frustrated by the information available and said some residents have suggested that $5.7 million is underestimating the costs.
“What we’re looking at as I understand it is a 15-year loan, but we only have … projections going for five years,” he said. “Nowhere do we as I see it, nowhere do we see the entire cost of the project on a per homeowner basis.”
Ryder said there’s a “healthy dialogue ... all over the board” about the proposal.
“If I put it at a municipal level, it’s like building a new town office,” he said. “You’re going to have some that think it’s a good idea, you’re going to have some that don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Larry Shulman, a council member representing the Burpee Hill section of Eastman, said he was impressed with the three different versions but declined to say which he preferred.
“There’s probably a wide range of views, some people want to do the minimum, some people want to do the proposal,” he said. “... I think it’s still a major decision that Eastman’s going to have to make, and this coming council decisions is going to be crucial.”
The proposal needs 55 percent of council support to pass, and the funding model needs a two-thirds majority. If the proposal fails, the committee would be charged with coming back with a new recommendation.
Any decisions would then have to be approved by the nine-person board of directors.
Maggie Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3220.