Downtown: Concord City Council sets its goals

  • Concord City Hall GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 2/11/2018 6:03:26 PM

By the end of their second meeting of the year, the Concord City Council will have set the tone for the next two years.

The council held its biennial priority-setting meeting last month, a roundtable-style discussion that touched on many issues facing the city.

It’s not just talk – City Manager Tom Aspell said the goals the council will formally adopt next week during their regular meeting will set the tone for how he and the city staff develop the budget for the next two years. It can even reprioritize capital improvement projects.

Having a balanced budget and encouraging economic development always top the council’s list. The Monitor wanted to know what other issues councilors would like to see addressed in the next two years.

Ward 1 Councilor Brent Todd

Neighborhood paving

The Ward 1 councilor said that when his residents reach out to him, it’s usually to talk about the status of their roads. He said making sure the village’s roads are looked after is one of his top goals.

“We certainly do have some streets that haven’t been tended to for a while,” he said, noting one constituent said their road hasn’t been paved in 33 years.

Todd said he’ll also be keeping an eye on development in the Whitney Road area. A project to extend Whitney Road to Sewalls Falls Road is currently No. 5 on the Capital Improvements Project list.

Ward 2 Councilor Allan Herschlag

Use of tax base money

Herschlag has his eye on expanding the tax base – and making the money available from any expansion efforts available to the tax base more quickly. He said he would like to see more tax money from projects built in the city’s Tax Increment Finance districts and that benefit from the 79-E Community Revitalization Tax Incentive be released to the community quicker, so it can be used for infrastructure improvements.

Herschlag would also like to see the city change the way it’s handling the opioid epidemic

“What we’re doing is not much different than what we have been doing for the last 50-60 years,” he said of the drug crisis.

Ward 3 Councilor Jennifer Kretovic

Form-based zoning

After two prior attempts to change the way the city handles its zoning, the Ward 3 councilor said she’ll be watching the construction of the form-based code system closely.

It’s not just about making the city more business-friendly and streamlining the building process, although that’s key – it’s about protecting the character of the city, Kretovic said. “(Form-based coding) will tee Concord up to be a location where doing business is great and improving your home is easier,” Kretovic said.

Ward 4 Councilor Byron Champlin

Business innovation

Champlin said he’s going to pay attention to a Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce effort to explore an “incubator” space – an entrepreneurship center that would allow fledgling businesses and creators to work in a shared space. Think the Hannah Grimes Center in Keene and the Alpha Loft in Manchester, he said. It’s all speculative at this point, but any center would probably be a nonprofit, he said.

Ward 5 Councilor Rob Werner

Energy sustainability

One of the biggest priorities of the next two years for Werner will be an initiative to make Concord more eco-friendly.

The Concord Energy and Environment Committee kicked off a 100 percent Renewable Energy campaign in October, which strives to have Concord going 100 percent renewable by 2050. Werner, who chairs the committee, said it’s an ambitious goal – of all the state’s municipalities, only Hanover has made a similar pledge.

But the city has already made some strides, like retrofitting municipal buildings with LED lighting, using solar power at fire stations and the wastewater treatment plant, and purchasing renewable energy credits from MidWest Wind Operations.

Ward 6 Councilor Linda Kenison

Parking improvements

A longtime member of the city’s Parking Committee, Kenison said she is eager to address the city’s ongoing parking problems. Even though the city is taking some steps to make its parking fund solvent, she said impending residential developments downtown will create a space crisis if the city isn’t proactive.

“It’s already tight down there,” she said. “We can’t wait until it’s a problem.”

Ward 7 Councilor Keith Nyhan

South End issues

The Ward 7 councilor said his constituents are keen to see Rollins Park thrive after several dozen trees were cut down due to disease. Southenders are also paying attention to the state of their streets, and the future of Rundlett Middle School.

Ward 8 Councilor Gail Matson

Community improvement

Workforce housing and those facing homelessness are a key priority for the Ward 8 councilor. Also near the top of her list is improving the city’s substance abuse and mental health resources, she said.

Ward 9 Councilor
Candace Bouchard

Bouchard could not be reached for this article.

Ward 10 Councilor Dan St. Hilaire

Making Concord millennial-friendly

Working to keep millennials in the Capital City is a big priority of St. Hilaire’s, as is increasing the amount of affordable housing and business.

As for projects that are a little less long-term, he said there’s no reason why the city can’t see its portion of the Merrimack River Greenway Trail, which would start in Terrill Park, completed.

“To me, that’s the low-hanging fruit,” he said of the trail project, “and is a priority that can be easily accomplished with minimal dollars.”

St. Hilaire said he would also like to see the leaf pickup system modified so it reaches all of his residents in Ward 10, noting that some on the far reaches do not get serviced by the time the snow falls.

At-Large Councilor
Amanda Grady Sexton

Communitywide economic development

“It’s critical that we work to lower taxes for our residents, and we can do this by attracting the right business that will create a more vibrant community,” Grady Sexton said, adding that anything to expand the tax base will help the city.

Additional issues for Grady Sexton would be working to improve citywide communications to residents and businesses and improving the neighborhood street paving program.

At-Large Councilor Fred Keach

Langley Parkway expansion

Describing the potential expansion of the parkway from Concord Hospital to North State Street as an “economically extensive project,” Keach acknowledged that the expansion would have some political obstacles. The expansion, should it be realized, would change the nature of some neighborhoods it would run through, and the initial construction of the parkway would also be diplomatically fraught.

But, such an expansion could solve the problem of Concord Orthopaedics, which has been trying to grow its Pleasant Street facilities, he said.

“It’s certainly a worthwhile project to look at,” Keach said.

At-Large Councilor Steve Shurtleff

Penacook Library

The Penacook library began its life in the 1890s as a police station, and it shows, Shurtleff said.

Improving the structure has been in the works for “quite some time,” but the discussion still centers around whether the building should be renovated or if the library should try to find a new space.

At-Large Councilor Mark Coen

Extension of Storrs Street

Lengthening Storrs Street is another project the city has been eyeing for years, but not knowing how the state will proceed with its Interstate 93 expansion plans has kept the project in limbo, Coen said.

While working with the state is important, there comes a time when the city must act, Coen said.

“I feel strongly we should proceed with a design. ... I’m not comfortable waiting for I-93 when we can do something about it now,” he said.

Mayor Jim Bouley

A little bit of everything

The mayor was coy about nailing down one specific issue he is focused on in the next two years; economic development, a balanced budget and a good bond rating, as well as addressing the opioid epidemic, were some of the highlights.

“They’re all equally important to me,” he said.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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