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January 30. 2013 12:13AM

Vote on Pennichuck reimbursements tabled in Nashua

NASHUA - Several aldermen on Tuesday raised concerns about a proposal to allot eminent domain reimbursement costs received from Pennichuck Corporation into the Nashua Conservation Fund.

Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly has filed a proposed resolution that, if approved, would appropriate anticipated reimbursement costs, up to $2 million, into the account used to help preserve city land. Her recommendation is coupled with a second, separate resolution requesting that Pennichuck fork over more than $2 million from the proceeds of a sale of property along Concord Street. That proposal also asks Pennichuck Corp. to contribute the proceeds of the sale of the property, known as Parcel F, to the city's conservation fund.

The 33-acre parcel - the last piece of undeveloped Pennichuck property - was previously bought for $2.2 million by North Concord Street Properties, a controversial land deal that was finalized just days before the city acquired Pennichuck at the beginning of 2012.

At the time, many aldermen were unaware that the property was not included in the acquisition, and unsuccessful attempts were made by the city to then purchase the land for nearly $5 million to derail an 85-unit housing project now being built on the site.

"The loss of the land has been a real loss for the community," Pressly told the aldermanic Pennichuck Water Special Committee on Tuesday. "I think it behooves us to take a stand that we would like some of this fund to go back into the preservation of land."

Although her proposed resolutions were drafted about six months ago, this was the first time the committee met to discuss the recommendations. Many people who supported the city's acquisition of Pennichuck for the past decade were hopeful that some undeveloped Pennichuck property would be saved, said Pressly, adding that unfortunately did not happen. Her proposals, she said, provide a backup plan to help remedy some of that error.

However, not everyone was on board with Pressly's recommendations.

"I don't want to mix up the water money with conservation money," said Alderman Brian McCarthy, board president, adding he does not support the proposal to appropriate future eminent domain cost reimbursements from Pennichuck into the conservation fund.

McCarthy's main concern is that there is very little conservation land left to acquire in Nashua, arguing it would be wiser for Pennichuck to keep the cost reimbursements and instead use it to purchase land that will protect the watershed in nearby communities.

Alderman-at-Large Mark Cookson suggested that instead of placing the reimbursements into the conservation fund, it might be better to use the extra revenue to offset the tax rate for Nashua residents.

"It was really the passion for the land that motivated people to vote," argued Pressly, maintaining her proposal is a way to ease some of that pain from the loss of Parcel F, which is now becoming the Hayden Green housing complex.

John Patenaude, Pennichuck CEO, explained to Pressly that the company's current loan agreements would not allow the company to pay the city or the conservation fund $2.2 million in proceeds from the sale of Parcel F.

"We are restricted by our covenants and our loan agreements," Patenaude said.

Ultimately, the committee tabled Pressly's proposal regarding the eminent domain cost reimbursements.

Her second proposal on the land proceeds has been tabled since last August.

khoughton@newstote.com

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