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March 11. 2014 6:01PM

VFW still eyeing old Crown Hill fire station in Nashua for new home

NASHUA — Officials from the local VFW, which has been without a home for nearly a year, are hoping a plan to move into the former Crown Hill Fire Station will soon be revived.

"We really need a home. We have been homeless since last April," said Barry Palmer, commander of the Nashua VFW Post 483.

The VFW sold its building to the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter and has been eyeing the old firehouse on Arlington Street for several months. When news surfaced last summer about the VFW's intention to possibly acquire the property, however, concern about alcohol being served so close to the Dr. Norman W. Crisp Elementary School stalled the process.

Now that several months have passed, Palmer said his group is ready to begin speaking with neighbors about the initiative, which he believes is still feasible.

An informational neighborhood meeting has been planned for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Dr. Norman W. Crisp Elementary School for anyone wishing to discuss the matter. Mayor Donnalee Lozeau and Alderman June Caron, Ward 7, are expected to attend, in addition to VFW officers.

The fire station is owned by the city and has been vacant for quite some time. Palmer is optimistic that the city may offer the building to the VFW as a donation and that a proposed resolution will soon be brought forward to the Board of Aldermen to consider the transfer.

"This building suits our needs. It is not perfect, but it is a good option for us," Palmer said this week.

The building will likely need about $100,000 or even $200,000 in renovations, according to Palmer, who said the VFW would be extremely grateful if elected officials supported donating the property.

"Crown Hill has a lot of veterans in the neighborhood," added Palmer.

Postcards were recently distributed to students at the school, which notified parents about the upcoming meeting and encouraged them to attend.

The proposal to convert the old firehouse into a home for the VFW was quite controversial last summer, drawing passionate opponents and supporters to several meetings of the Board of Aldermen.

It also prompted a proposed city ordinance that would have banned establishments from serving alcohol close to city schools, although that regulation was ultimately denied by the Board of Aldermen.

At the time, Alderman Diane Sheehan said that if the VFW pursues the acquisition of the firehouse, the city will essentially have a liquor license in a carpool lane.

Both she and Alderman Lori Wilshire said earlier that they could not support the VFW being housed at the vacant fire station if liquor was served so close to students. If a liquor license wasn't granted, that would be a different situation, they agreed.

Other aldermen said they felt deceived about how the ordinance was presented, claiming it was drafted for a single purpose — to prevent the VFW from acquiring the building.

"It is not targeting anyone. It is keeping our kids safe," Wilshire said at the time. "I don't think it is a good idea to have a liquor license that close to a school, and it doesn't matter who it is."

Palmer stressed that the VFW is not a bar or a nightclub, describing the canteen as a small area that provides an opportunity for older veterans to sit down and have a cold beer and talk with fellow servicemen.

khoughton@newstote.com


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