NASHUA — While elected officials continue to debate the authority of the aldermanic finance committee, the panel on Wednesday reversed its previous rejection of additional Main Street renovation funds.
Two weeks ago, the committee denied two change order requests for downtown improvements totaling more than $33,000 for electrical work and curbing.
On Wednesday, however, the committee reconsidered those two votes and ultimately approved the change orders. A special meeting of the aldermen had been planned for tonight to address the matter.
Marylou Blaisdell, chairman of the downtown improvement committee, urged the finance committee to approve the funding, warning any potential delays in moving the project forward could hinder Main Street businesses.
“It is crucial to all of us downtown, and we really want to see its completion,” said Blaisdell.
The committee, in reconsidering its previous vote, had little discussion on the matter. It also approved two separate funding requests associated with the ongoing downtown renovations, including $43,352 for light poles and $13,485 for light fixtures.
Although the committee appropriated funding for the sidewalk improvements with no debate, there was significant talk about a proposed request for $222,204 for two Freightliner 10-wheel dump trucks for the public works department — a request that recently led to a controversy over how much authority the aldermanic finance committee has as a governing body.
The panel previously tabled any vote on the truck purchases after seeking additional information about the need for the vehicles and requesting that a staff member visit the board to provide more details.
Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said Wednesday that the board of public works did not feel it was appropriate for a staff member to come before the committee to justify a purchase that was already approved by that body.
“They are an elected board,” she said, adding the board of public works has the authority to make decisions on fleet purchases.
Tracy Pappas, commissioner for the board of public works, argued that her board never reviewed the requested truck purchases — aside from a brief replacement schedule review.
It is unfair to the taxpayers to eliminate a “reasonable review process” for large ticket items, said Pappas, who said she supports having the finance committee study the purchase further.
Commissioner Tim Lavoie of the board of public works requested a legal opinion on the matter, which maintained that the finance committee is limited in its scope of responsibility.
Attorney Dorothy Clark, deputy corporation counsel for the city, explained in a memo that according to the charter, the committee’s basic responsibility is to confirm that an expenditure is from an appropriate account and that funding is available in that account.
“We could debate this legal issue for a long time,” said Alderman-at-Large James Donchess, who said a legal dispute now exists because of a common sense request for more details and a discussion with a staff member on the proposed truck purchases.
“We just need information,” echoed Alderman Ken Siegel, Ward 9.