18 or 21? Age to possess tobacco up for vote

Board of Aldermen slated to discuss tobacco ordinance and $317M spending plan this week

File photo Cigarettes such as these may soon be illegal to possess in the city of Nashua if one is under 21 years of age, pending approval of an ordinance up for vote during the meeting set for 7:30 p.m. today.

NASHUA – About three months of public debate may conclude tonight, as Board of Aldermen members could vote to pass the ordinance that calls for first-offense fines of $50 on 20-year-old adults caught with cigarettes.

Later in the week, on Thursday, the BOA will conduct a public hearing to accept input regarding the planned $317 million spending plan for fiscal 2020, which is slated to begin July 1.

First up, however, is a special BOA meeting set for 7 p.m. today in the Aldermanic Chamber of City Hall, 229 Main St. This is so members can take comments on an ordinance regarding the plan to fill certain vacancies on city boards by appointment, rather than through a special election.

“The total number of voters that came out to cast ballots was 4,443,” City Clerk Patricia Piecuch said in reference to the last special election that took place to fill the BOA vacancy created by the death of former Alderman Brian McCarthy last year. The election saw new Alderman Ben Clemons defeat Fred Teeboom to take the seat.

The 4,443-vote figure represents a 7.68% voter turnout. Piecuch said that election cost $35,674 to conduct.

The way the legislation is written, the board will fill a vacancy until the next municipal election. If there are fewer than two years left in someone’s term, then the board is going to fill that position until the next election. If there are more than two years left, the board will still fill the position until the next election.

Voters will be able to provide testimony in favor or in opposition of the resolution during the 7 p.m. public hearing.

18 or 21 for tobacco and nicotine?

The regular Board of Aldermen meeting is slated to follow the special meeting, at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Last week, members of the Nashua Personnel and Administrative Affairs Committee voted to send the original ordinance regarding the legal tobacco and nicotine age back to the BOA, but with no recommendation regarding passage.

As written, the Nashua ordinance outlaws anyone under age 21 from using, purchasing, selling or even possessing cigarettes, cigars, Skoal, or chewing tobacco, or any type of vaping product. An initial violation can result in a fine of up to $50, while subsequent citations can go as high as $100.

Some proposed amendments city officials have discussed include:

• Removing the possession restriction to just prohibit sales, purchase, distribution and use;

• Grandfathering in those who already are between the ages of 18 and 20 so they would be exempt from the regulation; and

• Exempting online, mail, or telephone sales by which the delivery of the product would be to people in a jurisdiction where it is legal to do this.

The proposed amendments would also include alternatives to the fines, such as participating in an education program or doing some sort of community service.

However, these amendments are not part of the ordinance as it now exists, so they would have to be added through some official action.

2020 budget plan

Nashua leaders currently plan to spend a total of about $317 million to run the city during fiscal year 2020, which reflects about a 3% increase from the amount approved for the current fiscal year. A public hearing to collect comments about this plan is set for 7 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium at Nashua High School North, 8 Titan Way.

With plans to add a grant writer, an energy manager, teachers, school psychologists and paraeducators, not to mention an 11 percent hike in the cost of employee health care, the spending proposal would be about $11 million higher than the one approved at this time last year.

The fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2020. The proposed General Fund appropriation is $270, 267,524. The proposed Enterprise Funds appropriation is $28,616,739, while the proposed Special Funds appropriation is for $18,483,130. The total of these three amounts is roughly $317 million.

IF YOU GO

• The Nashua Board of Aldermen will meet at 7:30 p.m. today in the Aldermanic Chamber of City Hall, 229 Main St. The ordinance to raise the city’s legal age for tobacco and other nicotine products from 18 to 21 is on the agenda.

• The Nashua Board of Aldermen will conduct a public hearing at 7 p.m. Thursday in the auditorium at Nashua High School North, 8 Titan Way, to discuss the planned $317 million fiscal 2020 spending plan.