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March 19. 2013 11:09PM

In Nashua, landmark millyard chimney repair costs still unknown

NASHUA - City officials are closer to finding out how much it will cost to restore the iconic Millyard chimney but the wait will continue a little longer.

It has been more than a year since Alderman-at-Large James Donchess spearheaded an initiative to preserve the historic structure. The aging chimney, which once stood about 180 feet high, was shortened by about 15 feet two years ago because of deterioration to the top of the structure.

However, engineers have recommended reducing the chimney even further, to about 100 or 150 feet because its strength may not meet state codes.

Last week, elected officials were told that three contractors have submitted bids to restore the chimney, which still stands where the city's old boiler house building was demolished last year as part of the Broad Street Parkway project.

John Vancor, project manager, told the Nashua Board of Public Works that all three requests for proposals that were submitted to the city require additional information.

"We have completed our review of the qualifications," said Vancor, adding that after meeting with representatives from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation he has decided to seek extra details from all three contractors.

"It is taking a little extra time," he said, adding that it is important to secure a responsible contractor who fully understands the scope of the work to avoid additional change orders. "We just want to make sure we are absolutely safe from any potential bid protest or concern after the fact."

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said that while she hopes the chimney can be saved, she asked whether the delay will impact the start of construction on the Broad Street Parkway, a multimillion-dollar roadway project that will provide another crossing over the Nashua River.

"Time is money, so I hate losing time," said Lozeau.

According to Vancor, the delay will not stall work on the parkway. Preliminary work on the nearly two-mile roadway has already begun, and major construction will begin later this spring and summer.

"I think they will be able to work together," Vancor said.

Preliminary plans for the parkway are not in the direct path of the chimney at 90 Pine Street Extension.

Within the next few days, the three firms will be asked to answer additional questions, and those companies providing satisfactory answers will be considered, Vancor said.

The cost proposals will then be opened, and elected officials will finally know the price of restoring the chimney, he said.

"This is one of the contracts that will make use of federal funds," Vancor said.

City officials have informally discussed possibly razing the chimney, relocating it or even reducing its size, but Donchess said previously that it should remain intact and continue to serve as a downtown landmark.

The city has owned the chimney since 1991, meaning its future lies in the hands of the Board of Aldermen. Donchess submitted a proposed resolution to his fellow board members more than a year ago, asking that the chimney be preserved and either maintained at its current height or restored to its previous height of 180 feet.

His resolution was unanimously approved last April, although the cost of the project is still unknown nearly a year later.

The Millyard chimney is part of the system that powered the mills with steam about a century ago. The Millyard - including its chimney - has been recognized by the National Register of Historic Places because of its start in 1826.

Before the current winter began, a firm from Buffalo, N.Y., was hired to perform some work on the chimney.

The crew installed a temporary reinforcement system at a cost of $16,400, sealing a breech opening and a small vertical crack before the snow began to fall.

khoughton@newstote.com


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