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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Board of Public Works recommends West Hollis Street land buy

NASHUA – The Board of Public Works last week gave its blessing to Mayor Donnalee Lozeau’s proposal to buy three West Hollis Street parcels to buffer the city landfill and perhaps house a future consolidated Public Works facility.

Lozeau, who chairs the board, was one of four members who voted Thursday to recommended that the Board of Aldermen OK spending $650,000 to buy 836, 844 and 848 W. Hollis St.

Commissioner Tracy Pappas was the lone vote against the resolution. Pappas said her opposition stemmed from her issues with where the money to pay for the project would come from.

The $650,000 would be split between the city’s Pennichuck Acquisition Fund and its general contingency fund.

“I’m not necessarily opposed to acquiring the property because I want to be a good neighbor” to the West Hollis Street residents abutting the landfill, Pappas said Monday. “A lot of my angst, the reason I couldn’t go along with it, is they used the Pennichuck Acquisition Fund and that, philosophically, I just could not go along with.”

“As far as the public goes, I think they wanted to acquire Pennichuck because they did not think they were good stewards of the watershed,” Pappas added. “So then to use the money to acquire land near a landfill, I think some people would see that as objectionable.”

Of the total cost, $500,000 would be used from the Pennichuck fund to purchase 836 and 844 W. Hollis St. from the Docos Family Revocable Trust of 2009, according to the resolution.

Another $150,000 would be used from the fiscal year 2012 general contingency fund to buy 848 W. Hollis St. from Robert and Gail Brown, of Indiantown, Fla.

Along with the $500,000 put toward the potential West Hollis Street purchases, another $500,000 is being returned to the CERF account, Lozeau said.

“I’m not on the Board of Aldermen. They have the final say over this stuff, but if I had my druthers, as a citizen, I probably would have used it towards conservation land,” Pappas said.

Combined, the three West Hollis Street parcels make up approximately 3.4 acres and are assessed at $889,500.

Pappas said it was hard to consider other pieces of land, including Parcel F’s 33 acres that once belonged to Pennichuck and are now being used for a senior housing complex, that could have benefitted from the Pennichuck funds.

Lozeau first presented the acquisition proposal to the Board of Public Works during a nonpublic session Jan. 5.

The minutes were released Monday after the board had voted to unseal them the week before.

The minutes show Public Works director Lisa Fauteux discussing the benefits of consolidating public works in Nashua, saying her staff had toured several new public works facilities in other communities, including a LEED certified facility in Lexington, Mass.

“Currently many of the facilities (in Nashua) are in poor condition and are requiring costly repairs,” Fauteux said. “The residents would benefit from one-stop shopping. A resident would have one location to go for all their needs relating to DPW.”

The city also had been contacted by Conway Arena, according to the minutes, looking to add a second sheet of ice, which would impact the street department by eliminating a portion of its building.

Lozeau has said the primary goal in acquiring the parcels is to rework the way the residents enter and exit the landfill and to give Trestle Brook neighbors some space from the dump. She has emphasized that consolidating public works is a two-year – or 20-year – vision, estimating it might cost $15 million in bonding down the road.

During the Jan. 5 session, Lozeau said it would be a good time to review the needs of the city while taking a look at its bonded debt. She advised that for every $1 million bond is an estimated $100,000 annual payment.

With the bonds for the two city high schools nearly paid off, and timing may be good in the near future to pursue the DPW facility, Lozeau said.

On Monday, Pappas questioned what it would first cost to demolish two homes and a garage currently sitting on the West Hollis parcels, and to dispose of that debris by taking up more space in the city landfill.

“There’s definitely a cost associated with it,” Pappas said. “I appreciate the mayor’s candor in saying that perhaps one day we might consolidate public works, and I think the process has been honest and transparent.”

The Planning Board also voted to recommend the purchase earlier this month.

The aldermen’s Infrastructure Committee has tabled the resolution twice and will see the legislation again at a meeting Wednesday. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the aldermanic chambers at City Hall.

When it goes to the full Board of Aldermen, the resolution will require 10 votes to pass.

Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or mgill@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Gill on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).