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Nashua aldermen will again consider new meeting time

Union Leader Correspondent

February 10. 2013 5:37PM

NASHUA - A city alderman is revisiting an issue that was laid to rest in December when the Board of Public Works decided to keep its afternoon meeting time.

"It is disappointing," Alderman-at-Large James Donchess said of the board's vote to continue meeting at 2 p.m. on select Thursdays.

Donchess has filed a proposed resolution that, if approved by his fellow board members and city voters, would amend the city charter to require the Board of Public Works to meet no earlier than 6 p.m., except for emergency circumstances.

"The Board of Public Works should be open to the public, and what I mean by that is they should meet when the public is available to attend," Donchess said on Friday.

He is not alone in his opinion. Tracy Pappas, who has been a member of the Board of Public Works since 2008, previously requested that the board have a discussion about possibly changing its meeting time to 7 p.m. beginning in 2013.

Following her recommendation, however, the board voted 4-1 to keep its monthly meeting in the afternoon.

Concerns about the afternoon meeting times were originally raised about three months ago by Robert Sullivan, who maintains that publicly-elected boards should hold their meetings at a time when most citizens can attend. Afternoon meetings, Sullivan said, restrict the amount of people who can attend and participate.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau disagrees. Lozeau, chairman of the board, previously told the Union Leader that there is ample opportunity for public participation. She said the Board of Public Works often hosts neighborhood gatherings to collect feedback on important revitalization projects.

"There is not ever going to be a good time for everyone to attend," Lozeau said previously. "Congress meets during the day. The state legislature meets during the day."

Lozeau said that the members of the board jointly decide when meetings should be held, accommodating their various schedules. In addition, she said the primary reason why meetings take place in the afternoon is because that is when staff members are readily available to participate.

Donchess argues that Public Works staff members could be given compensation time for attending evening meetings, but stressed that they are paid employees and that participating in select meetings is part of their job duties.

"It is not like they meet all of the time. It would only be an occasional commitment," said Donchess, stressing other city staff members often attend evening aldermen meetings or committee meetings.

In addition, he contends that afternoon meetings prevent the majority of citizens who have daytime jobs from considering running for a position on the board.

"Too many of these positions run uncontested because a large number of people cannot even consider taking time off from their employment on a regular basis," Donchess said of the 2 p.m. meeting time. "I just think it would be better for 90 percent of the people or more if the meetings were held in the evening."

As the Board of Public Works continues to oversee major projects such as the Broad Street Parkway and the downtown sidewalk revitalization, it is more important than ever for it to be open and convenient to the public, according to Donchess.

His proposed resolution will be introduced to the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday. It will then be assigned to an aldermanic committee for further review and a future vote. If aldermen support the proposal, a public hearing will be scheduled and it would be placed on the ballot for voters to decide.

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