‘Much left to do’

State of the City address hails Nashua progress

Staff photo by Damien Fisher Mayor Jim Donchess gives his State of the City address Tuesday night in the City Hall auditorium.

NASHUA – Whether it’s revitalizing the city’s downtown, or tackling the opioid addiction problem, Nashua is on the right track, Mayor Jim Donchess said Tuesday night during his State of the City address.

“We have made great progress over the past two years, and the state of the city has never been stronger,” Donchess said. “But there is still much work to do.”

The city continues to be picked as a desirable city to live in, like with Money Magazine’s designation as the best place to live in New Hampshire, and the economy continues to grow. Donchess said the city has seen hundred of high-paying jobs added at businesses like BAE and and UPS, while the revitalization of the downtown continues.

“A reinvigorated downtown – including new housing, a restored Nashua riverfront, a performing arts center, additional stores and restaurants – is good for all Nashuans, because it will expand our tax base and help pay for infrastructure, for schools, fire and police protection and for other services that benefit Nashuans in all neighborhoods,” Donchess said.

The city is adding 350 new housing units to the city, including 200 units at the Franklin Street project. More people downtown means more money coming into the city, and more opportunity for the rest of Nashua, he said.

“Hundreds of new residents will bring millions of dollars of spendable income to downtown,” Donchess said.

Donchess also credited the work of Paul Shea, Ben Ruddock, Cheryl Lindner and others from Great American Downtown to help boost the downtown with summer outdoor music festivals, a summer dance party, new holiday lighting, Main Street pianos, an expanded farmers market and other activities.

Part of this revitalization included the downton Riverwalk project and the $15.5 million performing arts center, just approved the the Board of Aldermen.

“Once the performing arts center is up and running, we will bring tens of thousands of people and millions of dollars to Main Street and downtown,” Donchess said.

While the Donchess has been seeking to revitalize the downtown, he’s also been focused on addressing the opioid addiction crisis. Through the Safe Stations program, Nashua has helped more than 1,400 people get into treatment for opioid addiction, Donchess said.

“Our Safe Stations program is one that is being used as a prototype elsewhere,” Donchess said.

Nashua’s police being able to make more than 800 drug-related arrests per year has also taken a bite out of the epidemic. The increased police activity has made the city safer, Donchess said.

“Nashua has gained a reputation of being a place where it is hard to sell heroin or fentanyl,” he said.

Donchess wants to see smart investments in city infrastructure, investments that are paid for, be part of the planning going forward. Aside from pothole fixes and sewer repairs, Nashua is on track for a five-year, $37.5 million paving project to take care of city streets.

“To maintain the quality of life we deserve, let’s repair the streets and roads that are crumbling and modernize our sewage treatment plant and sewers,” he said.

Donchess wants a responsible budget to pay for the city’s needs and services. Donchess plans to present a city budget for fiscal year 2019, which stars on July 1, in March, two months earlier than usual.

“This will give the Board of Aldermen and our citizens additional time to examine and comment on our budget,” Donchess said.

Last year, the city added full-day kindergarten, and Donchess now wants the school district to adopt the proposed four-year contract for teachers.

“This contract will help stem the ongoing out-migration of trained, seasoned teachers to neighboring districts, like Hollis-Brookline, Amherst and even Manchester for the higher pay those districts offer to mid-career teachers,” Donchess said.

Donchess wants to help young people with a summer jobs program, as well as expanding the efforts to reach out to families in the Crown Hill neighborhood. To attract young families to the city, Donchess wants a zoning change to allow more people to buy smaller homes in developments with high density that had previously been set aside for senior citizens.

Donchess also touted the need for commuter rail in Nashua. While the state’s Capitol Corridor project staled last year, Nashua went its own way, forming a partnership with the Boston Surface Rail Co. to try to establish a privately-funded and privately-run commuter rail service to Lowell and Boston.

“There are a number of obstacles to overcome, but we are optimistic that this could bring rail service to Nashua,” Donchess said.

Donchess thanks the city’s 2,800 employees, and the many people who volunteered to the city in the last year.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or dfisher@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DF.