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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nashua...From the inside 

Nashua mayor’s building fund upsets some aldermen

A few aldermen took exception last week to Mayor Donnalee Lozeau creating her own fund for building renovations and repairs, claiming she’s sidestepping their power of the purse.

Lozeau proposed a resolution to start the fund, and a majority of aldermen approved the measure in a voice vote. (The $150,000 for the fund was approved earlier this year as part of the city budget.)

But Aldermen-at-Large Mark Cookson, David Deane and Barbara Pressly opposed Lozeau’s action, saying the fund usurped the board’s authority to oversee city spending.

Cookson tried to amend the resolution to have aldermen, and not the mayor, control the purse strings of the fund, but his measure failed.

“I’m not seeing the reason why the agent to expend this particular fund shouldn’t be the Board of Aldermen and go through checks and balances,” he said.

But Lozeau and several aldermen said the mayor should control the fund because her office needs to have the ability to fix things without having to seek board approval.

“It’s about day-to-day operations,” Lozeau said. The “administration will have the ability to fix items and not come before the board for that.”

Lozeau said she still needs aldermen to sign off on any expenditure that costs $10,000 or more. But there are times when a repair or renovation will come under that cost threshold and she can tap this account rather than having to borrow, she said.

Any balance in the fund at the end of a fiscal year won’t return to the city’s general fund, but will stay in the repair fund. Lozeau said she hopes to add money to the fund in the future.

The resolution says the fund is “for the purpose of renovations, repairs and maintenance for various city buildings.”

Deane questioned Lozeau about the “pretty broad” parameters of what qualifies for repairs. He asked whether a television would qualify.

“No, I wouldn’t consider that building equipment,” Lozeau said.

Earlier in the discussion, Deane said the creation of the fund illustrated a problem he has with how Lozeau approaches budgeting.

“Something needs to be done about this activity,” Deane said. “It won’t be done this term, but next term, we’ll hopefully change some of what’s been going on here.”

Tearful farewell

Emotions ran high last week during an aldermen-at-large debate hosted by WYCN tv13.

Candidate Fred Teeboom, a former alderman-at-large, raised his voice several times, pointed his finger and singled out incumbents Ben Clemons, Brian McCarthy and Lori Wilshire for their handling of issues.

The incumbents and the other at-large candidate who attended, former Mayor Jim Donchess, refrained from duplicating Teeboom’s style of making points, although several did refute his charges.

But the unexpected emotion of the taped debate came at the end, when the host, WYCN program manager Carolyn Choate, announced the forum represented the end of a chapter in local broadcasting.

Choate, who has hosted countless Nashua-based programs since 1989 on tv 13, announced that with the sale of WYCN to businessman Bill Binnie’s New Hampshire Network, the at-large debate was the last such forum for the station.

Choking up with tears, Choate thanked the community and reminisced. She is now starting work as a reporter covering topics and towns for Binnie’s parent network.

Choate’s husband, Gordon Jackson, was president of the station’s longtime company, Center Broadcasting Corp. of New Hampshire.

WYCN, Nashua’s first and only broadcast television station, is one of many low-signal stations in New Hampshire that Binnie is buying in this state and Vermont.

The debate among five of the six at-large candidates on the Nov. 8 election ballot – candidate Daniel Richardson didn’t participate – will be aired on Comcast channel 13 in Nashua starting Monday, at 7 and 10 p.m. It will also be broadcast Tuesday through Thursday at 9 a.m. and 4, 7 and 10 p.m.

Business owner honored

The recognition keeps rolling in for Hussein “Sy” Mahfuz, owner of Nashua’s Persian Rug Gallery.

Mahfuz, who was named the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year earlier this month at the organization’s annual gala, won another award Thursday at the New Hampshire Business Review’s ninth annual Business Excellence Awards.

He won a share of the award for Excellence in Retail, with Lynda Nelson of Quest Martial Arts in Barrington.

Mahfuz, 60, is the third of four generations to operate the Persian Rug Gallery, the family business his grandfather founded and brought to Nashua in 1953.

“I was humbled,” he said at the chamber’s gala on Oct. 12. “You do what you do, and you don’t think anybody notices. But they do.”

Others Nashua people won Business Excellence awards, too, including:

* Brian Young, of the Nashua Center for the Multiply Handicapped, for Excellence in Nonprofits.

* Thomas Brueckner, of Senior Financial Resources, for Excellence in Professional Services.

* Cheryl Gamst, of CCS New England, for Excellence in Technology.

Winning bidder

Lozeau announced last week that Fidelity Capital Markets was the winning bidder on 20-year, $13.46 million city bonds.

The bonds have an average interest rate of 2.86 percent, her office said in a press release.

Bond proceeds, including the premium received, will finance $13.46 million of project costs of city building renovations, enterprise resource planning, construction for the Broad Street Parkway and school building projects, including HVAC systems, the release said.

Before the sale, Fitch Ratings gave the city a AAA bond rating, the highest such rating.

“The rating agency cited the city’s strong reserve levels, strong financial management, diverse economy with good wealth indicators and low overall debt burden with rapid amortization as positive credit factors,” the release said.

Winter wonderland

It wouldn’t feel like a Thanksgiving weekend without the city’s annual Winter Holiday Stroll.

On Saturday, Nov. 26, the Great American Downtown will host the 18th such event, ushering in Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and Old Man Winter himself.

From 5-10 p.m. that day, the downtown will be filled with people to watch the lighting of the city Christmas tree and visit restaurants, shops and churches.

The event includes a candlelit walk led by Santa Claus, entertainment acts and more, according to GAD. The event is free and “family friendly,” the organization said.

For more information, visit www.downtownnashua.org or call Great American Downtown at 883-5700.

Meeting times

It’s another week, meaning there’s another full slate of public meetings on the city docket.

For a complete listing, go to this column at www.nashuatelegraph.com.

Nashua … From the Inside was compiled by staff writer Albert McKeon.