NASHUA — City officials reluctantly agreed to spend $762,300 to restore the iconic Millyard chimney, but agreed the funding could have been used for other, more pressing initiatives.
“Our priorities are elsewhere, as far as I am concerned,” said Alderman-at-large Brian McCarthy. “I just don’t see that we get any value out of this.”
On Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen voted 12-1 to reinforce the failing chimney at its existing height of 165 feet.
McCarthy told his fellow board members that there are other financial pressures on the city, as well as demands on the budget.
“We are sacrificing the future to preserve the past,” he said. Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said she would rather spend the money on other projects as well, but said the city signed an agreement to manage the Broad Street Parkway road project with federal funds that require certain mitigation measures from the Department of Historical Resources. One of those mitigation measures includes the chimney, she said. “There are not a lot of options,” she said.
Lozeau said that the Record of Decision for the parkway could be reopened by federal regulators, and the city could be forced to undergo a new historical mitigation project if the chimney is not preserved as originally planned. “We can’t put it back if we change our mind later,” said Alderman-at-large Diane Sheehan. By saving the chimney and relocating the path of the parkway so that it does not affect Mine Falls, the city is receiving something more valuable than money, said Sheehan, noting there is a chance to explore the possibility of placing a cellular tower within the chimney to generate revenue. “I am just concerned about spending that much money on a chimney,” said Alderman Richard Dowd, Ward 2. After a brief debate, the only alderman to vote against the chimney restoration was Alderman Paul Chasse, Ward 6.
Last week, it was revealed that the cost to demolish the structure could cost between $300,000 to $500,000. However, it was noted that there are other, unknown costs associated with removing the chimney — including delays to the parkway project, reopening the Record of Decision and possibly additional historical mitigation work. The historic chimney, which has been owned by the city since 1991, 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.