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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Business leaders question mayor in part two of Nashua state-of-city address

NASHUA – Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said she hoped to make the second part of her State of the City address more a conversation than a speech.

That will have to wait until next year, as Lozeau gave a 40-minute “short version” of the address to about 160 business leaders at a breakfast gathering Wednesday sponsored by the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce. ...

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NASHUA – Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said she hoped to make the second part of her State of the City address more a conversation than a speech.

That will have to wait until next year, as Lozeau gave a 40-minute “short version” of the address to about 160 business leaders at a breakfast gathering Wednesday sponsored by the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.

The address was followed up by 15 minutes of questions. Unlike in some previous years, no one challenged Lozeau or commented on issues she had raised.

The address at the Courtyard Marriott was an encore to her presentation Tuesday night before aldermen at City Hall.

“There is emerging a group of young leaders that will surely secure Nashua’s future for decades to come,” Lozeau said, while touching on the city’s financial health, accomplishments in 2012 and changes residents might expect in the coming year.

Among those: more online services, including dog licenses and car registrations, she said.

As with the speech Tuesday night, Lozeau called out the police union for stonewalling her request for health concessions. Unlike Tuesday night, Lozeau made the remarks Wednesday morning at a podium in a Marriott conference room with Police Chief John Seusing sitting directly in front and roughly 30 feet away.

After her speech, chamber President Chris Williams served as emcee, walking through the crowd with a microphone and encouraging people to ask questions.

Eric Kirchberger of the Nashua Radisson wondered about the status of plans for changes in the F.E. Everett Turnpike at the border with Massachusetts.

A study, expected to start within six months, would explore the issue of a new Exit 36 southbound in a cooperative effort between New Hampshire and Massachusetts, Lozeau said.

The exit has been touted as a way to open access to south Nashua businesses for drivers traveling south on the turnpike.

Citing ongoing improvements to the downtown that Lozeau had talked about, Williams asked, “What can we expect to see as a schedule for this coming spring or summer?”

Sidewalk replacement will continue, with an additional one or two blocks expected to be completed, plus raised crosswalks installed near the
Main Street bridge, Lozeau said.

She referred to “the angst” business leaders may have heard about over the sidewalk project. The controversy was over whether the work should be done by city employees or by private contractors, Lozeau said, noting
that she has “come down solidly on the side” of using city workers for the project.

Some aldermen have argued it would cost the city less if the work was contracted out to private companies.

Also relating to the downtown improvements, Sen. Peggy Gilmour, D-Hollis, asked whether the “beautiful trees” along Main Street will be preserved or replaced.

“Sadly, pretty much all of them will be replaced,” Lozeau said.

Over the years, roots have wreaked havoc with sidewalks and become entwined with pipes, the mayor said.

The trees will be replaced with smaller trees with their roots encased in 5-foot-diameter concrete buckets, she said.

Brian Law, of Law Warehouses, asked what details the city hoped to glean from a federally funded rail study in the works.

“I think it will give us the information we would need to make decisions going forward,” Lozeau said.

She mentioned using information from the study to plan for a commuter rail station in Nashua, for
example.

Dick Holtz, of the YMCA, asked what steps the city has taken for school security in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting.

City schools had planned safety improvement prior to the Newtown tragedy, Lozeau said. School officials now are taking a look at some of the measures planned, including door locks, she said.

“The truth of the matter is, I don’t think you can secure something enough if someone wanted to do damage, which is heartbreaking when you think about it,” Lozeau said.

Heather Tebbetts, of PSNH, asked about plans for emergency responses to storms. Lozeau said the city’s emergency management director will be offering classes for citizen volunteers at Daniel Webster College.

Neil Barrett, of Grubb and Ellis Co., asked if the city is interested in acquiring the former Nashua District Courthouse on Chestnut Street.

The courthouse closed when district court moved to Spring Street in the Hillsborough County Superior Court building.

The city has told the state it has “a shiny new dollar” to buy the property, Lozeau said.

The city looked at it as a possible new home for the health department, but then rejected that idea because it would require too many renovations to the former court building, she said.

“I would be most interested in taking that property down and changing that side of Main Street,” Lozeau said.

With the construction of the Broad Street Parkway, due to be finished in 2014, the area where the courthouse sits could be a prominent new gateway to the downtown, she said.

However, if a business was interested in occupying the building instead, the city would be “happy to have it,” Lozeau said.

Patrick Meighan can be reached
at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Meighan on Twitter (@Telegraph_PatM).