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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Committees OK east side of Nashua’s Greeley Park for playground

NASHUA – A twice-amended version of the resolution to contract with the Institute for Human Centered Design to design Leadership Greater Nashua’s Legacy Playground unanimously passed the aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure and the Budget Review Committee on Wednesday night.

A companion resolution to build Legacy Playground on the east side of Greeley Park also passed – after the Infrastructure Committee approved 10 amendments. ...

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NASHUA – A twice-amended version of the resolution to contract with the Institute for Human Centered Design to design Leadership Greater Nashua’s Legacy Playground unanimously passed the aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure and the Budget Review Committee on Wednesday night.

A companion resolution to build Legacy Playground on the east side of Greeley Park also passed – after the Infrastructure Committee approved 10 amendments.

Ward 3 Alderman David
Schoneman proposed all the amendments to both resolutions – 12 in all.

Schoneman expressed what he called “some reservations” with the project, citing specifically the lack of a city master plan addressing Greeley Park’s future.

Schoneman also took the step of voting against recommending R-14-001.

“I don’t want to stand in the way of final passage of this, but I don’t feel I can vote in favor,” he said.

The resolutions now go to the full Board of Aldermen, which likely will take them up at its next scheduled meeting June 24.

One amendment to the resolution to contract with IHCD – R-14-042 – adds the word “scale-able” to the sentence that now reads “Human Centered Design for the purpose of proposing a scale-able playground.”

The other amendment gives a member of the Friends of Greeley Park, a group of park neighbors organized during the site selection process, a seat on the design committee.

The amendments to R-14-001 stipulate no lighting, no stadium seating, no plaques or signs on the playground, adding a buffer zone, and that LGN raises all the necessary site-work and construction funds before any work begins.

The amendments to both resolutions, and how the amended versions of the resolutions now read, can be found on the city website, www.gonashua.com.

LGN leader and project manager Eric Brand, speaking to one of the amendments, said he feels that it’s important to have a site chosen as LGN moves forward with its fundraising efforts.

“We don’t plan to start construction until we have the money we need, but that takes time,” he said. “Once we have a site, we can move ahead and finish our fundraising.”

Ward 4 Alderman Pam Brown, a member of the Budget Review Committee – whose members also were present Wednesday night – opposed the second amendment, saying of the Friends of Greeley Park that “it’s not their project … I don’t think it would be wise” to have a member on the design committee.

But during discussion, other members agreed with Schoneman’s concept, leading to the amendment’s passage.

Several speakers addressed both resolutions during public comment period.

Bates Drive resident Bob Burgess said he’d like to see Legacy Playground become a reality – just not at the proposed site.

“If it’s going to go in Greeley Park, then I favor the (site) where the existing playground is now,” Burgess said, referring to the original site the playground was considered for.

He called some of the east side of Greeley Park “a pigpen,” saying “there are 19 plow blades stored down there … people can’t even park” where they typically do to access the horseshoe pits.

Burgess said if people want “quiet, serene” site for the playground, then the east side is the wrong place.

“There’s no quiet, no serene there … you have all kinds of baseball tournaments, kids playing soccer. The bandshell is where everything starts,” he said, referring to benefit walks and such events.

Former Alderman Dan Richardson, a critic of the site who lives on Berkeley Street, reiterated his opposition, then went on to cite the process as “political expediency” that was based “on lies.”

“They said the existing playground is dangerous; people said they wouldn’t bring their kids there because it’s dangerous. It’s not dangerous,” Richardson said.

But after the amendments passed, Richardson rose again to thank Schoneman, and the committee, for adding the amendments that allowed everything to turn out “much better than I ever thought it would.”

Paula Johnson, another former alderman, criticized the board for “spending taxpayer money” on the project when that wasn’t made clear in the beginning.

“People are tired of not being told the truth until after the fact,” she said, further charging Mayor Donnalee Lozeau with a lack of transparency. “Where is the transparency? I haven’t seen anything.”

Johnson also took aim at Leadership Greater Nashua, suggesting that the group come through with the funds to study and prepare the site that she said they pledged early on in the process.

“Leadership Greater Nashua needs to put up or shut up,” Johnson said.

Stark Street resident Thomas Dionne praised LGN and Brand for coming up with the playground idea and seeing it through.

But Dionne also pointed to the contentious nature of the issue.

“You can see both sides are polarized on this, fighting vehemently to win,” Dionne said.

He urged LGN to consider other sites, saying that “great leaders see opportunity when it’s put in front of them.”

Brand rose to thank Dionne, adding that he feels that LGN was on the road to accomplishing “bringing the community together.

“We felt we did enough research, but people wanted a study,” which, he said, was fine with LGN. Aldermen “went ahead with the study, and now we’re accepting the results of that study.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).