Great Bay Kids Company


I have been making inquiries for some time, well over a year,  regarding whatever happened to the Squamscott Commons. My initial phone calls were regarding the million dollars.

The what?

That was the reaction from many who I contacted and the phone tree led to the current Board Chair of what I thought was a defunct organization, Squamscott Commons.  Why are they still meeting?  I was trying to find out what they intended to do with this appropriation, which everyone seems to have forgotten about, or  they were holding in their back pocket.  The link is just the announcement, I looked up the appropriation bill once, they have a window till 2017 or so  to apply the funds.

Apply to what?

The concept of the Squamscott Commons while loaded with Community  spirit , fell apart. There were so many stakeholders  all bent on doing good work. I was unsure of the efficacy of performing this work out of a common location. That is what the appropriation was for, a Community Center. The Squamscott Commons chairperson  when pressed said that perhaps the monies could be used for Seacare( out of business now) or the Richie McFarland center. Donna Schlachman offered they should go to the YMCA. I countered weakly that a Y on it’s own does not meet the model.

It was to have a food pantry at one point in it’s design phase.

December 18, 2009

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Judd Gregg and Jeanne Shaheen today announced that President Obama has signed into law $1 million for Squamscott Community Commons in Exeter. These funds will be used to help construct a new 80,000 square foot multi-tenant Community Center which will house a full-service YMCA, SeaCare Health Services, Exeter Center for Creative Arts, Great Bay Kids Company, and Rockingham Community Action. These funds were included in the Fiscal Year 2010 Consolidated Appropriations bill and are within the Appropriations Committee allocation set out for Fiscal Year 2010 funding measures.

Senator Gregg, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee stated, “Squamscott Community Commons is a great example of a local community working together to provide helpful resources for families and individuals in the area. The construction of this new community center will offer health facilities, recreational activities, and other important community support services that will benefit the greater Seacoast Community. I applaud the Squamscott Community Commons and area residents who have dedicated their time and effort to making this project a reality.”

Senator Shaheen stated, “The new and expanded Squamscott Community Center will provide Seacoast residents with much needed health, recreation, and community resources. Thousands of seniors, children and adults will be able to come together under one roof thanks to this funding and the commitment of the Squamscott Community Commons.”

“Robin Drunsic, Executive Director of Squamscott Community Commons, stated, “We are enormously grateful to Senator Gregg and Senator Shaheen for their support of this project which will have a significant impact on the quality of life for thousands of Seacoast residents. Now, more than ever, communities need to be looking for ways to streamline services and reduce costs for non-profits and this project will provide comprehensive access to social, health, recreational, cultural, and educational services under one roof.”

“Senators Gregg and Shaheen have once again proven their commitment to the people of NH through their support of Squamscott Community Commons,” said Carter Siegel, Chair of the Squamscott Community Commons’ Steering Committee. “The Commons will be a model for the nation in non-profit sustainable design, environmental stewardship, economies of scale, and regional collaboration. I’d like to extend our deepest gratitude to both Senator Gregg and Senator Shaheen. Their backing of Squamscott Community Commons’ vision is a valuable testament to the project’s worth and will inspire others to support this important regional project.”

Squamscott Commons was a costly endeavor with salaries, architectural and other services, insurance . The bought the property from the Co Op for 440K in 2008.

The YMCA purchased it for 100K. That’s quite a leg up, despite  demo costs and a location where traffic year round is not a concern as it is for some,at the Rec Park. Did you know that all YMCA’s honor each others membership? Every YMCA seems to write its own charter and hours. The Portsmouth YMCA closes at 4pm on Saturdays.

You know it  struck me odd  that Mr Prior raised traffic concerns at a BOS meeting when the GBKC lease was discussed. Donna Schlachman also raised concerns . There is new condo complex coming to the old cement plant soon. Bob Prior is the Chairman of the Zoning Board. He also added his participation with his wife on bringing the Planet Playground project to the Recreation Park.

Karen was a dynamo !

That was quite a community effort.I spread some wood chips down there too. It’s  a public play area, a busload of kids from Epping could use it, anytime.

I have had two conversations with the YMCA this week.  We should be hearing more in 4 weeks or so according to Rob McGregor regarding their vision and capital campaign. The YMCA and GBKC did talk and talked again within the  last 6 months.

It is just not going to work at a dream YMCA and neither would renovating  a commercial space. A quality day care facility must meet a set of state regulations probably more stringent with  infants. It must be purpose built for a host of reasons.I’ll bet you need a  room designated for sleeping mat cleaning and storage. A stand alone center can  go dark at night.

Our sons used the GBKC  for bit , the after school program.

Just an aside here now.


Granville Hicks (September 9, 1901 – June 18, 1982

He was born right here in Exeter and his book  “Small Town” was published  in 1946. It is a great read and is illustrative of how in a small community you are always bumping into  each other. There is a core group of committed and interested individuals serving as volunteers, elected officials, church leaders, political party leaders,school boards, charitable organizations. The town Granville wrote of was about 700 folks. I would suggest that we have a similar number at our core.

I get concerned about everybody else who is not following along, especially if they are in the dark.

A Community member could sit on a Planning Board and be in front of the same Board the next week as the consulting engineer on a new project. That is all done in clear view. This  battle over the leasing of the land to GBKC and what it could mean for the YMCA effort is being conducted out of view. This could lead the Community to make an uniformed decision  regarding the land lease. So I am suggesting that those raising objections to granting GBKC be honest as to why you are raising objections. I am befuddled really as the YMCA and Great Bay Kids have nothing going on, so why should we not vote yes, and keep this vital service in our Community. Take the doubt away let them get to it and begin the project.

I understand perfectly that  there are many that would very much like to have a YMCA. I understand that if there is no need to be filled in the Community that is one less tenant for the Y. The Y will have a hard row to hoe raising 3.5 million, no pool in first phase. The IOKA struggled  with a very organized local campaign and came up short. The Y in my view does not have the romance of a Gundalow campaign. It could take a very long time to raise that money and we might miss a great opportunity as a Community.

Mike Favreau our Parks and Recreation Director was approached sometime ago by a NH swim team organization. They had a proposal to erect a bubble over the Rec pool. It would be retracted in Summer. It would not have cost us a nickel. I was in favor of that  but the deal fell apart. It was a problem within the Swim Club, not us.

Mike got a complete set of plans and used them to further explore the concept . He has that information now from two of the top firms that do these bubble systems.

I would not use it , but I know people are mad for swimming, and we have a very nice pool. A pool of our size is a cool million at least to replicate. The bubble experts have informed Mr Favreau that the “business end ” of the bubble should be to the rear of the lot.

GBKC if granted this lease by the Community will be responsible for the access road , all services, and their  building. The GBKC building area can be sited in such a way to accommodate on the now cleared site all our future requirements for the pool bubble. This represents a tremendous savings to the Community in any decision we make about a pool bubble.

That will be a landslide, we could have a new childcare center and year round pool in less time and with less money than building a YMCA.


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