Nashua mayor offers outlook, takes on rail questionsBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
February 20. 2013 10:55PM
NASHUA - Residents and business leaders had an opportunity to grill the mayor following her State of the City address on Wednesday, but only a few questions were raised by curious folks.
During a breakfast gathering at the Courtyard by Marriott, members of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce had little to say about Mayor Donnalee Lozeau's outlook on the city and its future, other than to agree with her sentiments.
"I agree with much of what she said. I think her comments were well put," said Arthur Andrew, who has lived in Nashua for about 35 years. "I think the mayor is doing a terrific job, and I think Nashua is a wonderful place to live."
Wednesday was the mayor's second presentation of her annual State of the City speech, where she focused on major city projects, recognized key community service members and praised city workers.
She mentioned numerous improvements under way in Nashua, including new downtown sidewalks, Legacy Playground, a downtown traffic study, bandwidth upgrades, new credit card payments at City Hall, the creation of a Community Emergency Response Team and more.
Lozeau also echoed her stance on bringing rail back to Nashua.
"The opportunities here are many," she said. "If we can continue the momentum, we can make real progress that includes making decisions now to preserve our future options."
She noted the board of aldermen's recent approval to purchase property on Crown Street, which will become a park and ride lot in the immediate future, and potentially a downtown train station in the long run.
Brian Law of Law Warehouses Inc. in Nashua asked the mayor about the recently authorized rail study and how it will be beneficial.
Lozeau said the study, estimated to take about 18 months, will give the city and the state real information needed to make important decisions.
"You need to know those facts," she said, especially the dollar figures. "I don't want to let opportunities pass by."
Most importantly, according to Lozeau, is that rail - if deemed feasible - stop inside of the city rather than just travel north to Manchester. Nashua does not want to be the gateway, she said, but instead the Gate City.
The rail issue was the only topic Andrew said he had some reservations about. While he believes trains could be beneficial for Nashua, the cost is Andrew's major concern.
"I am not a big believer in rail. On the macro-level, rail service is very costly. I just question the cost factor," he said following the mayor's speech.
Sen. Peggy Gilmour asked Lozeau about the city's plan to replace the trees along Main Street throughout the ongoing sidewalk renovations.
"Sadly, the trees downtown - pretty much all of them - are going to be replaced," said the mayor, explaining many of their roots are causing disruptions and damage to the downtown sidewalks. "They really have to go."
The city intends on installing five-foot concrete root buckets to prevent damage once the new sidewalks are constructed. New trees, however, will be planted, she said, stressing green space will also be available in the form of granite planters and possibly downtown rain gardens.
"The trees will grow," she reassured Gilmour. "It will come. We will get through it."