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Concord Main Street gets green light

Concord Mayor Jim Bouley, City Manager Tom Aspell and Councilor-at-large Mark Cohen listen to Concord resident Suzanne Smith-Meyer comment regarding keeping the character of Concord's downtown area during last night's City council meeting.  (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

Concord Mayor Jim Bouley, City Manager Tom Aspell and Councilor-at-large Mark Cohen listen to Concord resident Suzanne Smith-Meyer comment regarding keeping the character of Concord's downtown area during last night's City council meeting. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor)

The Concord City Council approved the Main Street project last night, and construction will begin this fall.

Most of the votes on the table passed 14-1 with dissent only from Ward 2 Councilor Allan Herschlag. The proposal approved will rebuild and redesign nine blocks of Main Street for $10.69 million.

From Centre Street to Concord Street, the construction will widen the sidewalks along Main Street and condense traffic to two lanes. It will make the entrances to 18 businesses handicap accessible and remove the double-step curb on the west side of the street.

After the meeting, Mayor Jim Bouley said the upcoming months of construction will be a time to rally around downtown.

“This is a time when the community needs to come together to support one another,” he said. “It’s important to support our merchants. It’s important to shop downtown, to eat downtown.”

The total bill will be covered by a $4.71 million federal grant, $560,000 in federal tax credits, more than $500,000 from impact fees and the water fund, $2.5 million previously dedicated to paying for buried utility lines and almost $2.9 million in city bonds. About $470,000 of those bonds were added to the project last night, when the council decided to include money for colored tree lighting and a consultant to design that lighting scheme.

Next, city staff will finalize the contract with Severino Trucking Inc. Construction will begin this fall on utilities and improvements to Eagle Square, while the council will make decisions at a later meeting about which specific parts of Main Street will be under construction in 2015 and 2016. The project is scheduled for completion in 2016.

While most councilors voted against a measure to move the clock tower away from Eagle Square, only Herschlag voted against the rest of the project. He read a prepared statement to the council before his vote.

“While I’m willing to spend your money and my money on a Main Street project, I’m not willing to spend our money on a project that only gets it half right,” Herschlag said. “I want a project that gets it from Day One, and I want a project that gets it right the first time. I don’t think we’re there yet.”

Ward 6 Councilor Allen Bennett responded to Herschlag’s statements.

“I think we’ve had numerous public hearings, I think we’ve had numerous meetings,” he said. “I think we’ve discussed this for the last two years. It’s now time to make a decision.”

Last night’s meeting was a continuation of a July 14 meeting, when the council postponed its votes on the project. At that meeting, 22 people spoke before the council; only four opposed the project outright. Many supported the project but asked for changes to its details.

At last night’s meeting, only three of 15 people spoke directly against the project. Some of the 12 who spoke in favor of the project also asked for changes to the design or the construction schedule. Public comment ranged across specific line items, like a consultant for tree lighting, to larger questions about economic development in downtown.

Susanne Smith-Meyer, a resident of East Concord and a member of the Concord Planning Board, spoke against the tree lighting. She asked the council to refocus on the project’s goals for a more accessible downtown.

“We’re not Las Vegas, we’re not Disney,” she said. “Many people go downtown right now, and I don’t think we should spend the money or even encourage the . . . lights. The wow factor to me is not as important.”

Others, like Chamber of Commerce President Tim Sink, spoke in favor of the lighting – and the extra flash.

“I really do believe that this will provide a wow factor that has the potential to set Concord aside from literally any other city in New Hampshire,” Sink said.

Several councilors voiced their agreement. More details about the lighting plan will eventually come back to council for final approval.

“I think this is a great opportunity to have a consultant tell us what looks best for Concord,” Ward 10 Councilor Dan St. Hilaire said.

Downtown building owner Remi Hinxhia spoke up for five parking spaces outside his two properties on North Main Street, and the council asked for city staff to look for ways to save some of those spots. Other details, such as snow-melt systems paid for by individual business owners, will also be hammered out as the project gets rolling.

Another Concord woman argued against the lighting for the trees. But when a councilor asked her whether she supported the project overall, she shrugged off the question.

“I think that’s a moot point right now, because it seems like the project is going forward,” she said.

“I can assure you it is not a moot point because we have not taken a vote,” Bouley said.

“Really?” she asked.

“Really,” he replied.

“Oh, don’t get me started,” she said, returning to her seat to applause from the crowd.

The council will meet next Aug. 11 at 7 p.m. in council chambers.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

With the loss of JJ Newberry's, the Concord Theater, The Capital Theater, Western Auto and the original Isis & Rasputin's, I have effectively been boycotting it. Except for several visits to Speer's. -------------------- The photo reminds me of the 3 monkeys, hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil.

Monkeys? Perhaps but typical, arrogant public officials who feel they know better than the folks who pay the bills. As far as what is left downtown for a draw, you are correct, not much there anymore.

Let's see the last time they had a bigger project and once the bids came in the price was much higher so it was scaled back. Now they come up with new so called scaled back plans but since they then have to put it all out to bid again more than likely it will again cost more than projected.

(unfrozen)cavman35, I don't believe any part of this project will be "put out to bid again". After a couple of high/unacceptable bids, the CCC decided to go in a different direction, and hitched their wagon to Severino(Ace) Trucking Company to do the bulk of this work. Now, they did approve an additional $100,000 for a 'consultant' to tell them which way to aim the $340,000 tree uplights, but I don't believe that will involve a bid process. More than likely, someone is already earmarked for that payday. Too bad, too, because I would've done it for $20. Since they're called uplights, I would advise they be aimed upward.

I swore I would never get involved in a building in Concord - a great opportunity to do some good for others appeared and I violated my own pledge ......Now I regret I do. I will untangle myself from the Democrats Republic of Concord soon enough. Meanwhile weeds galore at every median and curb have the city looking like a old run down mill town....but hey - they will have lighted trees like Niagara falls

The tree lighting will do little more than light up the homeless. Should've allocated some funds for signage on I-93 N & S; "Highlighted Homeless this exit!".

*"Lit Up Homeless this exit!"

The "Concord woman" mentioned at the close of this article didn't just get applause for her "don't get me started" comment, she brought the house down. So, while one reporter's scorecard may have it 12-3 for speakers not vehemently opposed to Complete Streets going forward, the accurate temperature of the public masses gathered in the Council Chambers last night could be read in the thunder that followed this "Concord woman" back to her seat. Imho, that temperature matches the majority of the citizens in this rest of the city; they don't want this construction done. Nevertheless, the project is going forward. And, yes...it definitely was a done-deal BEFORE the CCC vote was taken. That was evident when Mayor Bouley began the public testimony by exempting anyone who was in attendance for the July 14th meeting (it's called Divide & Conquer). But the most revealing tell may be in the photo above. Note the sullen look of concern on City Manager Tom Aspell's face, during Susan Smith-Meyer's testimony. Susan spoke first, and made a lot of sense. Apparently too much sense for Tom, and the other two stooges in same photo.

my apologies, *Susanne

"It’s important to support our merchants. It’s important to shop downtown, to eat downtown.” Still can't see why the project will improve that situation at all. Colored lighting will quickly get "old" and never pay for itself. In five years the city council will still be trying to figure out how to attract shoppers to downtown businesses. Hint: It's about the businesses themselves! Duh!

One of the limiting factors is that Main Street stores close around 5 or 6. I could see the value of the lighting if stores were looking to stay open into the evenings but I honestly don't see that happening. Sounds like these funds could be better allocated to other aspects of the project

Thats it..I'm officially boycotting Main Street. All I need now is the appropriate t shirt and a bull horn.

" The total bill will be covered by a $4.71 million federal grant, "

The financing design of this project, the way I understood it at least, provided for the TIGER grant to comprise 60% of the total. They have obviously deviated from that formula. In fact, it appears things have flip-flopped to where the grant is now about 40% of the total.

" and the water fund " * too Larry, of the point being that of what I said at the Public Hearing just before this involving "federal funds" is for them to look into HOW Uncle Sam got the money to begin with that'll show that some of it was collected in an unlawful manner, reference the Sixth Amendment violations against Ed & Elaine Brown by taking them OUT-side the state and district of WHERE the offense occurred in that ALL trials (that include preliminary hearings are a PART of the trial) SHALL be held in the state and district of where the offense occurred. That the end does NOT justify the means for procedural due process of law! And so for them to accept stolen $money puts them in as thieves in the 2nd degree, and for the business people to go on as if nothing happened unlawfully against their neighbors is irritating to me of that they would have such an attitude, of "these people" in business will thus NOT get MY business! and everybody reading such that if they (these businessmen especially) do not put the pressure on the City to DO their job of to return $xxx,xxx.xx to Uncle Sam then let them be an http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/anathema Especially "Red River Theatre" for inviting Federal Judge Stephen McAuliffe to there, KNOWING that he was right in assigning Maine Judge George Z. Singal of Portland, Maine to be THE judge, but when Singal was too lazy to travel, and our former A.G. Jeffrey R. Howard now 1st Circuit judge on the 4th floor of The Rudman Block cut the checks for the attorneys to travel to, at and from Maine and McAuliffe just sat there doing nothing about this then they too get none of my business! Boycott these busy people in busy-ness of too busy to tell their public servants - ALL to obey the law! and that includes then Deputy now Clerk of Court Attorney Dan Lynch who KNEW this too but told Jane Pauley at Fed. Rep. Paul Hodes' office that such travel was done by Rule 72.5 was a lie in that that is a CIVIL Rule. So to boycott SHAHEEN & GORDON too where Hodes works. Now to see if any attorney in town will demand that McAuliffe and Singal be impeached.

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