On the issues

Board of Aldermen candidates opine on PAC, commuter rail, property revaluations at Rotary

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Former alderman Ben Clemons answers a question by a Rotary Club of Nashua member at Monday's candidate forum. He is running against former alderman Fred Teeboom, right, for an open alderman-at-large seat. At left is Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce president Tracy Hall, who served as moderator.

NASHUA – Ben Clemons said Monday he has been there, done that – and he is prepared to do it again.

“I’ve been a leader in Nashua, and I know how to move Nashua toward a better future,” the former Board of Aldermen member told those attending the Monday Rotary Club of Nashua meeting.

Fred Teeboom, Clemons’s opponent in the March 5 special election to fill a vacant alderman-at-large seat, told Rotarians his reputation as a “good watchdog for taxpayers” and for “holding government accountable” are some reasons voters should return him to the Aldermanic Chamber.

Either Clemons, an alderman-at-large from 2008-11 and the Ward 6 alderman for the 2016-17 term, or Teeboom, an alderman-at-large from 1993-97 and again from 2005-09, will finish out the term of the late Brian McCarthy, which runs through Dec. 31, 2021.

McCarthy, a 25-year veteran of the board, was alderman-at-large and board president when he unexpectedly died Nov. 5.

Telegraph photo by DEAN SHALHOUP Former Nashua alderman Fred Teeboom, who is running against fellow former alderman Ben Clemons in the March 5 special election for an open alderman-at-large seat, addresses Rotary Club of Nashua members at Monday's candidate forum.

Teeboom, of 24 Cheyenne Drive, said he considers his work on the Broad Street Parkway project his biggest accomplishment as an alderman. He said he agreed with the proposal to scale down the project from a four-lane parkway to two lanes.

Teeboom also told Rotarians he “pushed for the creation of the local access and educational channels,” referring to the Government TV 16 and Nashua ETV channels that carry local events and most city and school district meetings.

For Clemons, of 188 Ash St., spearheading the creation of the Downtown Improvement Committee ranks as his most significant accomplishment.

Formed in 2011, the committee advises aldermen “on how to spend downtown funds, to promote economic development, put on events,” he said. “Today, you can see those results. I’m proud to have led that accomplishment.”

Prompted by questions asked by Rotarians Tony Martinez and Ernie Jette – the latter of whom is Ward 5 alderman – the candidates expressed their positions on the downtown Performing Arts Center project.

Teeboom said he initially opposed the funding aspect of the project, referring to the $4 million endowment that had to be raised before the city could begin the project.

But when aldermen amended the resolution to also allow the use of tax credits to fund the endowment, Teeboom said, “that put us on the right track.”

Clemons was a bit more pointed, saying the reason the matter went to voters was “because the board of aldermen refused to listen to their constituents.”

Residents “were begging us to get this built,” he said of the PAC. “It was quick thinking on my part,” he said of his suggestion the matter be put to voters.

Solidly behind the PAC project since the start, Clemons said Nashuans should understand, “This is an investment in our city … It’s a project that’s going to draw people to the center of our city for years to come.”

Meanwhile, Teeboom said his main priority, if elected, would be to “take a closer look at how the reevaluation happened,” referring to last year’s citywide revaluation that triggered an outcry from many residents and property owners.

“What happened? Was it fair?” he said, adding that he would also bring the controversial spending cap issue back into the spotlight.

Clemons, meanwhile, said two of his priorities tied for most urgent.

One would be “getting commuter rail to Nashua,” which would include supporting local officials as they work with the state “to get this done.”

Seeing the PAC through is his other priority, he said. “We need an anchor in our downtown so it remains vibrant,” he said. “Having a PAC here will accomplish that goal.”

On the topic of rail, Teeboom cautioned against spending time and money on conventional rail. “Let’s start thinking about new technology,” he said, adding that commuter rail as it’s known today “is a loser … we need a system that’s more efficient and less expensive.”

Clemons said if given the choice he’d prefer linking Nashua with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which, he said, offers “a more direct connection to Boston.” Regardless of the system, “the bottom line is we need to get a train to connect ourselves to Massachusetts and Boston.”

Also explored was the school district’s recent discussion over whether to spend upwards of $18 million renovating the city’s three middle schools or build a new one in the southern part of the city and close Elm Street Middle School.

Teeboom, in response, scolded aldermen for “missing a fantastic opportunity to buy the Daniel Webster College campus,” noting that its $12 million price tag is far below the estimated $50 million to $80 million needed to renovate the middle schools or build a new one.

“That was an opportunity lost. The board did not act when it should have,” he added.