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September 25. 2013 8:30PM

Lease deal with Nashua hospital approved

NASHUA — A new, multi-story parking garage could possibly be built at a prime downtown location now that city officials approved two lease agreements with a local hospital, but there is still no guarantee it will ever be constructed.

On Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen adopted two controversial lease arrangements with Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, which will allow the hospital to continue leasing a city-owned parking lot located behind the CVS pharmacy on Main Street, while also subleasing parking spaces to CVS.

In return, the hospital may purchase the city land for $720,000 within the next 15 years, but only if it promises to construct a public parking garage on the site.

"We are getting a good deal for the city," Mayor Donnalee Lozeau told aldermen this week. "… We are on the same team here. We all want what is best for the citizens and the taxpayers."

Lozeau has been meeting with representatives from the local pharmacy and hospital throughout the past year in an effort to negotiate an agreement that would benefit each entity involved. However, some city officials were not enthusiastic about the lease-to-own deal, contending the city parking lot could have a significantly higher value than $720,000.

"We simply don't agree on the value of the land," said Alderman Dan Moriarty, Ward 9. He also disagreed with Lozeau's comment that it would be demeaning to the city's assessing staff if aldermen sought a second appraisal.

Alderman-at-Large James Donchess asked that before any final vote be taken, aldermen meet with the city assessor to discuss the matter in more detail, possibly behind closed doors.

Lozeau said the lease agreements have been on the table for months.

"My concern is that every time we get to this point, there is just one more thing, and I think that is a problem," said the mayor, adding it would not be business-friendly to delay the vote once again.

At least one alderman, Paul Chasse, Ward 6, said he was still confused about the resolution and requested that it be sent back to the aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure so any amendments could be addressed at that level.

"Let's do it right," said Chasse. He said the outcome of the vote will have a bearing on the November election.

Alderman June Caron, Ward 7, said the proposal is a win for the city and the two local businesses involved. Caron said that, hopefully, the city will receive a parking garage that it couldn't afford to build or maintain on its own.

"It is not a guarantee. We are kind of rolling the dice somewhat," said Alderman-at-Large David Deane, who ultimately supported the initiative. Deane said he is also hopeful that the hospital will follow through in good faith, and ultimately purchase the land and build a garage.

"We certainly do hope they fulfill their commitment to this lease," added Alderman-at-Large Mark Cookson.

On a vote of 11-4, the two lease agreements were authorized by aldermen following a two-hour debate. Voting against the proposal were Chasse, Moriarty, Donchess and Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly.khoughton@newstote.com


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