Donchess aims high in State of City; Mayor pushes full-day kindergarten, paving projects and ending hunger

NASHUA – Mayor Jim Donchess is going all in on supporting full-day kindergarten in his upcoming budget, as well as a greater investment in municipal paving and adding three new sports fields in the city.

"I want to make Nashua a city that offers opportunity to people in all of our neighborhoods," Donchess said in his State of the City address Tuesday night. "From the Tree Streets to the North End, from Crown Hill to Sky Meadow, from Little Florida to Westgate Village."

The speech, given in the City Hall auditorium to the Board of Aldermen and members of the public, hit on education and infrastructure investments as valuable resources to help the city continue to attract businesses and employment opportunities.

Several hundred jobs have come into the city, such as at BAE and Prudential Lien, that have helped Nashua see a 2.5 percent unemployment rate, Donchess said.

"These jobs and the ripple effect they create will add millions of dollars to our robust regional economy," he added.

The city’s downtown brings business and people to the city, and there are plans for 250-to-300 new apartments between the Renaissance project off Bridge Street and the Franklin Street mill project.

The city is also making progress on the opioid addiction crisis through the Safe Stations initiative, Donchess said. Since starting in November, the project has averaged two people a day seeking help for their addiction. The public/private partnership between the city’s fire department, AMR ambulance and Harbor Homes is saving lives and making a difference, he said.

"I am very proud of the way that every day Chief (Steven) Galipeau and our firefighters, the employees of Harbor Homes and AMR are rising to this challenge," he said.

Though he didn’t specify a total budget figure, Donchess wants to push forward with a school budget that includes full-day kindergarten. He also intends to keep some of the school budget items that would be cut under the current budget proposal. Donchess wants to keep funding for the 10 custodian positions that were proposed to be cut, as well as two teaching coaches and Clearway High School.

"Families must have confidence that their kids will get the education they need to succeed in life," Donchess said. "Good schools are also a key part of our economic development strategy. Employers need to know we are graduating students who have the skills to perform in the workplace."

Donchess is also proposing a "big leap forward" in infrastructure spending. He will come out with a plan this year to invest $7.5 million a year for the next five years on paving in the city.

Another proposal is Donchess’ plan to add three recreation fields for lacrosse and soccer; two next to the Charlotte Avenue Elementary School, and one at the park on Jewell Lane. More than 2,000 children and adults play the sports in the city and the new fields will alleviate a shortage, he said.

Donchess also wants to team up with city agencies and nonprofits to tackle childhood hunger. Working with the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter, as well as several other groups, Donchess hopes to end childhood hunger in Nashua by the end of the year.

"I know that by working together we can make the lives of many hungry children a lot better," he said.

Though the city is facing a tight upcoming budget for fiscal year 2018, Donchess said there will be more money coming in through a change to LED streetlights to save $250,000 a year, and the city buyout of the Mine Falls hydroelectric dam will generate $400,000 a year in revenue, he said.

Donchess is also proposing a new initiative to create a more open government with a Nashua City Academy that will allow up to 50 residents to take a 13-week course to learn about all-aspects of the city’s operation.

"In Nashua we care about all our citizens and we don’t want to leave anyone behinds," he said. "Whether they are a Nashuan struggling with addiction, a student with a disability, or a senior citizen trying to stay in her home."

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or or @Telegraph_DF.