In her sixth State of the City Address, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau took stock of 2012 by way of cost-saving initiatives, completed projects, works in progress and contributions of a "dedicated staff," across all city departments.
High points for the year included a push toward energy efficiencies which saved the city more than $400,000 citywide on electricity; a giant step forward for the massive Broad Street Parkway project, which is scheduled for completion by 2014; and recognition for the school district as a finalist in the US Department of Education’s Race to the Top-District competitive grant program.
There has been slow but steady recovery of the city's assessed value, which is up from $8.3 billion to $8.5 billion since 2010, although it is still $1 billion below where it was three years ago, Lozeau said.
Lozeau also touted a number of new businesses putting Nashua on the map, including FLIR, Waveguide, Aspen Technologies and Sky Venture, which is expanding its skydiving adventure space into the largest indoor surfing facility in North America.
During a summary of the city's financials, Lozeau pointed to the five police unions that have not yet reached contract agreements, and urged the police commissioners to work hard toward settlement through collective bargaining.
"Because those employees are working under the previously negotiated contracts they have received the same benefits at a lower cost than their colleagues since October 2011," Lozeau said.
The implication of that, said Lozeau, is that by the end of February there will be a $438,415 shortfall in contributions by police employees.
"I call upon the parties negotiating those contracts to reach a reasonable resolution reflecting the same principals of fairness and equity that we have achieved in the other employee contracts. When the chips are down, there is no credible argument for special treatment of discrete groups. We are all in this together," Lozeau said.
These days it wouldn't be a State of the City address in Nashua, without a rail update.
"Then there is rail. What a great example of team work. The federal, state and local level we all pulled together in the same direction. The opportunities here are many. If we can continue the momentum, we can make real progress that includes making decisions now to preserve our future options, such as Crown Street, a park and ride in the near future and a potential downtown train stop in the longer term," Lozeau said.
Some other highlights from Lozeau's remarks include:
- In Fiscal Year 2012 - the city spent $422,000 less on electricity and natural gas then it did in FY2011.
Setting aside $100,000 of these savings, we have brought in legislation to establish an Energy Efficiency Expendable Trust Fund to continue to invest in energy savings measures where it makes sense. In addition, the School District was able to put $100,000 in an expendable trust fund for school utility costs.
- For current fiscal year FY2013, the combined general fund operating budgets were reduced by $155,000 for electricity and $200,000 for natural gas from FY2012 levels. A total reduction of $355,000 which is significant!
- The Nashua School District was named a finalist in the US Department of Education’s Race to the Top-District competitive grant program. The District’s $27 million proposal ranked 28th out of the 271 applications for funding. Thanks to those at the school department that worked on that. I know that the work was not in vain and will be utilized by the School Board to implement future programs.
- Spring work will continue with the installation of new mast arms from East Hollis Street to Library Hill and a new crosswalk on the Main Street Bridge. Crews will also continue to replace the sidewalk, resuming work at the Park/Water Street intersection and working south through block two and likely three in this next construction season. New benches and trash receptacles will also be installed, making Main Street a welcoming destination that showcases the heart of our city. We will continue to work with the local businesses to reduce impacts while we make the needed improvements.
- In addition to the downtown sidewalks, over 4,000 feet of new concrete and asphalt sidewalk had been put in on Arlington Street, Hall Avenue, Webster Street and Pioneer Drive.
- The Citywide Traffic Signal Management System Upgrades also known as the CMAQ project began last week on the $2.3 million dollar upgrades to the Citywide Traffic Signal Management System.
- As of March 1, the city will accept credit or debit cards for over the counter transactions, expanding services to including online payment for car registration and dog licensing.
It will replace signal control equipment at the remaining 73 intersections throughout the city similar to the upgrade made at the 20 intersections in the DW Highway corridor a few years back. This will ultimately provide our citizens with better service because the new computerized traffic signals will communicate better with each other to improve traffic flow.
- Renovation in the Clerk’s office and the Elm Street entrance provides a welcoming, customer friendly space. The new directory sign clearly guides visitors to the department they are looking for and the thirty year old carpet was replaced throughout the building.
- Renovations to both the Ledge St. School and Charlotte Avenue School were completed. We upgraded the Elm Street and High Street garages; the remaining work there is related to new cameras, electrical work and cosmetic improvements.
- Good financial management allowed the city to complete a refunding or a refinancing of bonds that saved the city $2 million dollars primarily in FY 14 through 17!
The city was able to sell them at an average interest rate of 2.86%. This is an excellent rate and one of the lowest in the city’s history. Having our overall bonding capacity well below 20% and our bonding less than 8% of our operating budget has certainly been a factor in our success. It has been worth the work to get it there and keep it there.
Following Lozeau's remarks, Aldermen Barbara Pressly said it was a lot of information to digest, and Alderman Mark Cookson said overall, he thought Lozeau did a nice job.
"I think the economic outlook is what stood out to me. I wasn't aware so many companies were coming into Nashua, and that's something I'd like to know more about," Cookson said.
Lozeau's remarks are uploaded here in their entirety via PDF.