Nashua homeowners facing a tax increase of up to 4% have denounced the city’s recent decision to spend $325,000 on land for a dog park as “mowing the lawn while your house is burning down.”
“I think there are better things that we can do with that money,” Jason Hale told an aldermanic panel on Tuesday, a week after aldermen approved the purchase from the Nashua Millyard Associates, Inc.
Nashua taxpayers should have been asked whether they wanted a dog park, Laura Colquhoun said.
“I feel these funds can help the Nashua taxpayers much more,” said Colquhoun, who has three dogs.
In introducing the city’s 2022 budget last month, Mayor Jim Donchess referred to “a number of major financial challenges” facing Nashua, including rising pension and health care costs and COVID-related expenses, which could mean a sizeable hike in the tax rate.
The panel voted 5-1 Tuesday to recommend using surplus funds from the Broad Street Parkway project for the $325,000 parcel. The full Board of Aldermen will make the final decision.
Alderman Ernest Jette said if the money does not come from the Broad Street Parkway surplus funds, it will have to come from the general fund budget, which could have a bigger impact on taxpayers.
Colquhoun said the surplus funds should be applied to the Broad Street Parkway bond, or other capital improvements, not land for a dog park.
John Griffin, the city’s chief executive officer, said the $325,000 is not tied to the bond, so the money can be used for another purpose, Griffin said.
He said the city issued $34 million in bonds and paired that with federal funds for a total of $59.5 million. To date, about $56 million has been spent on the Broad Street Parkway, according to Griffin.
A dog park advisory committee was formed in 2019 and has been searching for a location in the downtown area to build a dog park. The parcel behind the W.H. Bagshaw Company at 1 Pine St. Ext. was determined to be the best site.
“This is not $325,000 for a dog park,” Alderwoman Patricia Klee said, noting the nearly five-acre parcel will also serve as a public entrance to Mine Falls Park.
Marc Plamondon of Nashua said he is a strong supporter of a public dog park in the Gate City. He described the project as an excellent idea.
“I commend you for moving forward on this,” he told the panel, suggesting that at least two acres of the parcel be reserved for the dog park and that two sections be created to separate larger and smaller dogs.
Alderwoman Shoshanna Kelly said she could not support the surplus spending proposal, especially when some city departments are operating with less staff to make ends meet. She was the only dissenting vote.
Aldermen are expected to vote on the proposal at their next meeting on June 8.