City eyes vacant school space

That vacant parochial St. Patrick school on Spring Street can look pretty good from the crowded office that is the city’s Community Development Division.

A recently released space study by the Administrative Services Division suggested the old school as an east annex of City Hall, if you will, to give some breathing room to the division.

But with a price tag of some $3 million to spruce the building up, it is unlikely there is any will on the Board of Aldermen to take such a step. Altogether, the price tag to relieve the space crunch for the crowded city offices came in around $21 million.

Administrative Services Director Maureen Lemieux said aldermen and city residents need a bit of “breathing room” before spending more money.Mayor Bernie Streeter said the report is a good basis for discussions.

In the next couple of weeks, aldermen will need to decide whether to renew the lease for the Division of Public Works’ engineering and administration offices on Ledge Street for at least another few years or maybe even lease more space to move the Community Development Division out of City Hall, he said.

Changes in the air

Two budget-related charter changes are being considered by the Board of Aldermen.

One would give aldermen more time to put a microscope to the city budget.

It would require the mayor to hand over a recommended budget to the Board of Aldermen by Feb. 1 instead of June 1.

Streeter has already told aldermen he intends to give them his recommended budget for fiscal year 2006 in the middle of the winter.

Alderman-at-Large David Rootovich and others at a recent meeting said putting the date in the city’s governing document strengthens the deadline against any delay or a division director reluctant to talk about finances.

The second proposed change would require 10 aldermen to give affirmative votes to pass a budget.

That is a reaction to the aldermen passing a budget by a 9-3 vote this year, with three absent board members.

Some board members were annoyed that the required two-thirds affirmative vote of aldermen now in the city charter allowed fewer than 10 aldermen to OK the spending plan.

Personnel/Administrative Affairs Committee Chairman Jim Tollner said he agrees with the idea and believes most residents already think the existing rule makes 10 votes mandatory.

A debate now under way is focused on when to pass the legislation, since acting on it soon could require a special city vote around the December holidays.

The cost of a special citywide election starts at around $13,000, according to City Clerk Paul Bergeron.

Another charter change still stuck in Tollner’s committee is the idea of requiring the second-place finisher in an election to be given first dibs on the position if the winner steps down.

Sundays at Elm Street

The Auditorium Commission has been meeting with the Rev. Paul Berube of Grace Fellowship Church to ensure a smooth relationship between the church and other users of the auditorium at Elm Street Middle School.

“It’s all on the positive,” commission Chairman Dennis Schneider said

The church aims to use the facility when it isn’t booked by other organizations on a Sunday, he said. No organization has been bumped, he said.

The church is just another tenant, paying the $225-a-day fee, he said. The fee goes to the Nashua School District.

Since the number of church members is around 1,000, that’ll be more people filling the performing arts facility, he said.

Grace Fellowship Church has outgrown its Main Street worship space. Three services had to be organized to accommodate the crowd. The church, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, wants to use the auditorium so everyone can worship together. The church has plans to build a new large worship and performance space on Franklin Street.

Schneider said the church and all the users have been accommodating.

The year’s booking calendar has already been set, but whenever the auditorium is free on a Sunday, the church hopes to use the auditorium, Schneider said.

One arrangement under discussion is the church loaning an idle piano to Elm Street Middle School to replace one that doesn’t function, Schneider said.