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June 27. 2013 8:22PM

Old bell may have new life in downtown Nashua

NASHUA — A historic downtown bell, which marks the site of Nashua's first City Hall, may soon have a new home.

On Tuesday, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said the bell, which reportedly weighs more than 2,000 pounds, could possibly be moved to the front of the existing City Hall during upcoming sidewalk renovations to the area.

Her idea, however, is still preliminary. Lozeau intends to form a working group to address the needs of the City Hall Plaza to determine what changes, if any, should be made as part of the ongoing Main Street renovation project.

The bell was previously removed from Nashua's first City Hall in 1936, and was subsequently used as church bell at Fellowship Baptist Church for several years, according to published reports. Eventually, the bell was placed in storage before a prominent electrical contractor, James Stellos, made a substantial donation in 2008 to have the bell placed at 100 Main St., serving as a monument to mark the site of the original City Hall that was built in 1843 and torn down in 1940.In its current location, it is difficult to maneuver around the bell because of surrounding boulders, Lozeau said. If it is relocated to the City Hall Plaza, Lozeau said the bell could be used to kick off the annual Holiday Stroll downtown, and also when announcing names during various ceremonies or memorials held at the plaza.

A future project that might include historical markers being placed throughout Main Street may also be considered by the group, Lozeau said.

Meanwhile, she is anticipating that bricks, which are currently lining City Hall Plaza, will again be used during sidewalk renovations to that area. The bricks will help to distinguish the outdoor site as a plaza, as opposed to the concrete being installed along the new sidewalk paths, she said.On Tuesday, Alderman-at-Large James Donchess was one of four people to vote in opposition of the city's $236 million operating budget. He specifically noted $500,000 in the budget for the Main Street renovation project.While the project may be worthy, Donchess said, it is not being handled appropriately.

"That project has gone off course in the way that it has been managed," said Donchess. He said there was never a public hearing on the project and there should have been a discussion on whether to use bricks or cement before some of the sidewalks were built.

In addition, he believes that trees along Main Street are being cut down as a choice rather than out of necessity.Lozeau said previously that the cost of the Main Street renovations will be around $2 million, plus labor. City employees are completing the upgrades.

During a Board of Public Works meeting on Tuesday, Lozeau said the biggest single reason for having city workers perform the task is because the staff is already available, adding the city also has the opportunity to be flexible when working with downtown businesses.

"On the final analysis, I think the public will see the benefits," she said. "… We knew there were going to be problems, and that is one of the reasons we wanted to do the job."
khoughton@newstote.com


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