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Three candidates battle it out in Concord’s Ward 10

  • Pavers from Pike Industries work on the south side of Loudon Road Monday night, July 24, 2017. Construction on Loudon Road began on last Sunday, July 23rd, and will continue through September 1, weather permitting.Major paving operations will be completed in the overnight hours, between 7:00 PM and 5:00 a.m. Lane closures and traffic delays can be expected. GEOFF FORESTER



Monitor staff
Saturday, November 04, 2017

A three-way race could make next week interesting for City Council Ward 10 incumbent Daniel St. Hilaire, who faces competition from public office newcomers David Sky and Elvir Zulkic.

Sky, 56, has said the biggest issue facing the city is how to make sound, sustainable growth decisions that don’t undermine the city’s “livability values.” In the face of several large-scale development decisions, such as the downtown Storrs Street extension and the Interstate 93 expansion, Sky said councilors must be careful to make decisions that go beyond maximizing revenue in the short term.

In particular, Sky was critical of business development in the Heights. He said residents are looking for sustainable growth in the Heights, not box stores, while parts of the Steeplegate Mall remain empty. He also questions why the city rejected federal money to repave Loudon Road.

While Sky sees a lot of good in the downtown revitalization project, he said Main Street’s abundance of banks, financial management firms and law offices aren’t attracting business.

“I would like to see downtown be more of a vibrant place to attract people to visit and shop and just walk around,” he said at a candidates forum hosted by the Monitor.

Another area Sky said could be improved upon is the city’s use of renewable energy. While he applauded the recent decision to exclude solar panels and other renewable energy sources from the residential tax base, he said more could be done to invest in the city’s own use of renewable energy.

Sky is against the use of keno to generate additional funds for full-day kindergarten, calling it “a tax on the desperate and destitute.” He said other revenue resources should be pursued instead.

This is one area where Sky and Zulkic diverge; the 27-year-old candidate said he believes keno will bring people to the city and he plans to support it when he votes in Tuesday’s election.

Zulkic said the city’s return on investment is “minimal” for the tax rate in Concord. He views attracting young people to the city as one of its biggest challenges, and while the investment downtown is nice, there’s not much for people his age to do outside of it.

“If my wife and I want to go to a mall, we rarely go to the Steeplegate Mall,” he said at the Monitor forum. “We usually drive down to the Manchester mall. If we want to go see a movie, we rarely go to the movie place on Loudon Road. ... I don’t believe we should be spending all our money on downtown. The investment we made was nice, it looks nice, but there’s not much to do downtown for younger people.”

Much of Zulkic’s platform hinges on the idea that many of the city councilors have served for too long.

“A lot of the major issues that we have in Concord still exist,” he wrote in response to a series of candidate questions. “If we continue to have the same group of people looking at the same issues year after year and nothing is being resolved, my opinion is that it is time for a change in leadership.”

St. Hilaire, the incumbent, was unable to attend the Monitor’s forum and did not respond to a request for an interview.

St. Hilaire stands out in terms of public office experience – he has served on the council since 2006, and has been Mayor Pro Temp since 2008. Additionally, he served on the Executive Council from 2011-13 and was the Merrimack County Attorney from 2003-09.

St. Hilaire said previously the city has done a “tremendous job” in the last few years to pave neglected roadways and revitalize the downtown area, but more can be done to increase the tax base and add high-paying jobs to the city.

Retention of young people is one of the biggest issues facing the state. The city has addressed this by investing in the downtown, St. Hilaire wrote in response to candidate questions. He said the recent sale of the Employment Security Building and other renovations on Main Street will create great market rate housing choices for single professionals and families.

St. Hilaire said residents should vote for him if they like what Concord has done, including improving Main Street, attracting new businesses to the Heights, paving Loudon Road and Fisherville Road, and nearly eliminating odor issues at the water treatment plant.

The election is Nov. 7.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @Actual CAndrews.)