Mayor calls for community effort to continue Nashua’s growthBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
February 18. 2014 10:19PM
NASHUA — The Gate City has countless assets and unique opportunities to offer, but the community must work together to be Nashua’s greatest cheerleader, according to Mayor Donnalee Lozeau.
“We have an obligation to maintain Nashua as the attractive growth center for New England it has become,” Lozeau said during her annual State of the City address on Tuesday, noting the city’s recent branding campaign provides an ideal platform to showcase Nashua to the rest of the world.
The new tagline for the city — Dare to Begin — will support ongoing development, invite growth within the community, influence and support local initiatives and encourage people to follow their dreams, she said.
In an unusual act, Lozeau opted to pre-record her State of the City speech and then air it on the city’s cable television channel after the snow forced Tuesday’s scheduled meeting with the Board of Aldermen to be postponed. Today, she will address the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce with her annual update.
“I believe we all are committed to supporting a climate for families to thrive, children to learn, businesses to succeed and visitors to enjoy,” said Lozeau. “We must work together to be our city’s greatest cheerleaders.”
And there is much to cheer about, according to Lozeau’s speech, which provided a shoutout to SkyVenture, the nation’s largest standing wave stream machine that recently opened in Nashua. She also mentioned Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, which will soon expand from Merrimack to Nashua with the purchase of an historic building on Concord Street.
The expansion of the Nashua Riverwalk, the completion of the Jackson Falls Dam crest gate project, the initial construction phase of the Broad Street Parkway and the ongoing downtown improvement projects were also highlighted by the mayor.
Part of the downtown revisions include a stronger police presence along Main Street and surrounding roads, according to Lozeau, who announced a new plan that has been developed to create a permanent police presence downtown during first and second shifts.
Existing office space in the two downtown parking garages will be utilized by police as needed, according to Lozeau, who thanked Police Chief John Seusing for his efforts in amending the staffing to make the goal feasible.
The city’s financial status was also one of Lozeau’s topics on Tuesday as she noted that the city recently sold $21 million in bonds at an interest rate of 2.43 percent — the lowest the city has experienced in four decades.
“In addition to obtaining the best financing on new loans, the city was able to refinance 13 loans through the state Department of Environmental Services. New Hampshire was the first state in New England to offer this option, and Nashua was the first community in New Hampshire to accomplish it,” she said.
Although budget challenges remain, Lozeau maintained that those concerns are being addressed. With rising employee costs and recent revenue declines, she said rating agencies are still citing the city’s financial management as strong, particularly in light of recent labor agreements, cost-cutting measures and moderate annual tax levy increases.
For the second year in a row, Lozeau called out three city police unions — the supervisors, patrolmen and communications workers — for failing to reach new contracts that contain the same health care and wage provisions that other city union employees accepted months or years ago.
Lozeau said she remains optimistic that the contracts will be resolved soon with retroactive health insurance costs.
She mentioned several local organizations that have contributed in positive ways to improve the Gate City, including the Mine Falls Park Advisory Committee, the Nashua D.O.G. group and city schools for their increased participation in advance placement courses.
“We have so much going on in this community. There is so much for us to accomplish, so many possibilities,” said Lozeau. Some of those possibilities are passenger rail, mixed-use development near the Nashua and Merrimack rivers and a new Exit 36 south, she explained.
Those future successes depend on finding common ground, Lozeau said, explaining it is OK to have philosophical differences and still reach a consensus through thoughtful debate and factual understanding.