Nashua aldermen feel out of the loop on branding contracts
By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON Union Leader Correspondent
NASHUA — City officials voiced frustration on Tuesday over the city’s ongoing branding campaign and whether contracts should have been written differently or reviewed further by aldermen.
A budget of about $105,000 was created for the branding initiative, with about half of the project being paid by the city and the other half being funded with contributions from the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.
Some aldermen said this week, however, they were dumbfounded to learn that a contract with one consultant ended abruptly and a second consultant was hired without the aldermanic Finance Committee reviewing an amended contract.
Although two organizations, North Star Destination Strategies of Tennessee and MESH Interactive Agency of Nashua, were both hired to implement a new brand, logo and tagline for the city, the contract with North Star was concluded early after a creative roadblock stalled the project from moving forward, said Tom Galligani, economic development director.
With $18,000 remaining on the North Star contract, MESH took over the project for $9,500 — a savings of about $8,500 for the city.
Despite the savings, some aldermen argued the newly amended contract with MESH should have gone back to the aldermanic Finance Committee for authorization.
Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said there is a $10,000 threshold to introduce contracts to the Finance Committee. In light of the situation, Alderman-at-Large James Donchess said that threshold should be removed, and that any contract originally approved by the committee and subsequently amended should have a second viewing by the committee.
“Clearly, that was an evasion of the finance committee,” said Alderman Ken Siegel, who argued that city codes require a schedule of performance dates to be included in all contracts, which he said didn’t take place in the branding agreements.
Galligani acknowledged that different leverages — legal and ethical — are sometimes used to move projects forward and save taxpayers money. Lozeau echoed those comments, saying that sometimes there are timing concerns with presenting contracts to the Finance Committee.
“I am getting pretty fed up with the ‘we hide things’ perspective,” said Lozeau, noting there have been multiple updates on the branding initiative presented to aldermen since the efforts began.
At the end of the day, there is a great brand for the city, said Chris Williams, president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.
“There have been multiple delays,” he said, adding now is really the time to become productive and take this project to the finish line.
Although the city brand, logo and tagline — Dare To Begin — were launched last fall, there are still some separate initiatives expected to be finished next month, including a new Nashua destination website, updates to the city website, templates for branding materials and more.