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Concord City Council adds parking to Main Street plans

Concord’s Main Street design gained a few parking spaces last night.

The city council voted for angled parking spaces on North Main Street, from Capital Plaza to Warren Street. The design team for the Main Street redesign project had proposed parallel parking in that area; the council’s vote would result in a gain of five parking spaces.

“I’ve heard very loudly from the merchants and just folks everywhere walking down the street that parking is very important to them,” Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton said.

The sidewalk will be narrower than it is today in that area, and there will be fewer trees and benches, said Gene McCarthy, an engineering consultant for the project. But there won’t be a two-step curb, which would have been required to add a total of 10 spaces between Warren and Capitol streets.

The switch to angled parking between Warren and Capitol streets failed on a vote last night; only Mayor Jim Bouley and Councilors Steve Shurtleff, Grady Sexton and Candace Bouchard voted in favor of that design change. Councilors Dick Patten, Mark Coen and Rob Werner were absent.

All votes taken at work sessions this week are tentative; the council will hold another public hearing and final vote next Thursday. Designs are due in mid-June to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which awarded the city a $4.71 million federal grant to redesign Main Street.

At its first work session about the designs Tuesday night, councilors asked engineers to return with a plan to increase parking spaces on North Main Street, where they proposed parallel parking on the west side of the street and angled parking on the east.

Councilor Jan McClure said last night that she didn’t support the change from parallel to angled parking spaces because it altered the overall designs.

“I hear all the concerns about parking and it is an issue,” she said. “But I don’t think that it’s enough of an issue for me to be swayed to sacrifice the excellence of what we’re trying to create here, for not next year or the next year, but 10 years down the road.”

Bouchard said parking spaces are important for people who shop downtown; other councilors called the angled parking adjustment to gain five spaces a compromise.

But narrowing the sidewalk in any section doesn’t fit the project’s overall goal to transform Main Street, said Councilor Dan St. Hilaire.

“The merchants have a point about having plenty of spaces for their customers,” St. Hilaire said. “But if that now means that we are considering a plan that gives us a narrower sidewalk than we have today on that side of the street . . . I’m not sure if that qualifies as a transformative project.”

Fountains, steam, clocktower

There won’t be fountains in the State House Plaza; the council rejected that proposal last night.

The design team suggested fountains that would have been flush with the ground. They would have been turned on and off and were meant for children to splash in. Several councilors said the proposed location wasn’t appropriate, because the space is used for events, parades and political protests.

“My concern is that it only takes one protest that that fountain goes off, and we look like idiots,” said Councilor Jennifer Kretovic.

The council also agreed to move forward with a snowmelt system powered by Concord Steam, even though it is still waiting to hear whether Concord Steam can build a new plant in the South End or upgrade its existing plant.

“Yes, it’s a bit of a leap of faith, but I think that this part of the project is one of the most important pieces that we’ve all talked about,” Bouley said.

City Manager Tom Aspell said the council can put the snowmelt project out to bid and make a decision against it later, based on what they learn from Concord Steam.

The council approved of moving the clocktower from Eagle Square to Phenix Hall.

The New Hampshire Historical Society owns the clock and opposed its move, though City Manager for Development Carlos Baia said the city does have the right to move the clocktower.

“If we go back to some of the original conversation we had tonight about parking and some of the opinions people gave about big and bold . . . then you have all convinced me that we need to be big and bold, so I would support moving the clocktower for $40,000,” Bouley said.

Also last night, councilors discussed trash containers. Councilor Keith Nyhan questioned whether the city should spend $4,200 per trash can. St. Hilaire added that the city shouldn’t reduce the overall number of trash cans; there are 20 along Main Street. After discussion, the council approved the purchase of 12 solar-powered compactors, but asked city officials to make sure they are well-placed.

Councilors approved of looking into a permanent visitors kiosk to replace the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce’s seasonal booth. A new structure would have an estimated cost of up to $150,000.

Other items approved last night included plans for way-finding signage, public art and banners.

The council did not have a long discussion on project financing last night. Matt Walsh, the city’s assistant for special projects, said he will update the cost and long-term maintenance estimates based on changes made this week.

The council will not hold a third work session tonight, but it will meet next Thursday for a final public hearing and vote. Construction is set to begin in September.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or
lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

Legacy Comments9

$4200 trash cans and a $150,000 kiosk and moving a clock tower for $40,000. Whose relatives are getting these overpriced deals?? Now all that they need is a seamstress, candle stick maker, butcher, baker, blacksmith and a buggy whip store. Then the elitists can walk downtown and nod "Hi Neighbor" and enjoy the diversity of their community. Cost? Just a cool $4M in taxpayer money while the homeless go, well, homeless......our priorities are all screwed up.......

Right Jim: Certainly we are not the only ones to see the ironic honesty in Councilor Kretovic’s use of the present tense -- “and we look like idiots.”

Hey, I have an idea, instead of making up fake numbers for projects why dont we take bids from members of the community to do the work. $140k for visitor center- JOKE...People that read these articles are not stupid. No wonder there is never enough money in the till. Maybe we could use the fountains after all....The bums protesting a couple weeks ago could have used the hose down. The councilors should keep an open mind...Besides, the last time I checked they still made shut off valves.

Are the showers and cement pond, still a go, in front of the State House?

Well, those showers will be utilized quite effectively as our legislators bleed us dry on taxes (if they had their way), we will all need the showers. As for the "cement" pond, I hear that there will be a statue of Obama in the middle with arms raised and water spraying out of his hands and a halo on his head.

That would be great. I think just to the left of the statue they should have a designated sleeping area. Although it might be easier for them to pass it, if they called it a rest area.

permanent visitors kiosk for $150,000 - will they be buying land for this or using city owned property. You can build a small house with a kitchen and bathroom for $150K. Can't wait for those winter time strolls though downtown admiring the leafless trees, $4K solar powered (when not covered in snow) trash cans, $40K to move the clock, a couple weeks left and 3 council members don't even show up, park benches that the city will say they need another employee to wipe off the snow, heated streets by a company that the city already broke their contract with and they still don't know whats compliant by law. As far as looking like idiots - sorry, that ship has sailed. We used to call it by another name.

Oh I am sure it went out to bid and they chose either the high bidder or someone politically connected. Add it up, in just a couple of days we identified $300,000 in wasted taxpayers dollars. UNH logo $150,000 and kiosk $150,000. WOW! That is just the minute tip of the iceberg.

This article needs clarification as it is confusing as written. Did the vote to add back angled parking to North Main St. pass or fail? The article indicates both. It sounds like it passed until one reads, "The switch to angled parking between Warren and Capitol streets failed on a vote last night..." And to put all this in perspective, citizens need to know: How many parking spaces are there now? How many parking spaces would there be as a result of this vote?

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