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Arts center is back: Return of a boondoggle

January 10. 2018 11:41PM

Last year, six Nashua aldermen blocked a plan by Mayor Jim Donchess to borrow $15.5 million to turn the vacant Alec’s Shoes building into a downtown arts center.

None of those six are still on the board, and in November, voters narrowly supported a nonbinding referendum in favor of the project.

Donchess presented his plan to the new board this week. It would require $4 million in private funds to pay for the arts center’s operations before any money could be borrowed for building renovations.

Donchess may now have the votes to push through this boondoggle, which would not only put Nashua taxpayers on the hook for years to come, but take a prime piece of commercial real estate off the city’s tax rolls.

When Manchester developed its civic center, now known as SNHU Arena, Mayor Ray Wieczorek structured the deal so that Manchester taxpayers would not be responsible for the bond payments. The project was financed with future state meals and rooms revenue, but if that stream were ever interrupted, investors could not ask taxpayers to make them whole.

The Nashua arts center remains an expensive extravagance. If Donchess and his allies insist of going through with the project, they should put similar protections in place.

Entertainment Local and County Government Editorial Nashua

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