City officials discuss utility deal in private

NASHUA – The board of aldermen met in closed session Monday evening to discuss its efforts to acquire a water utility.

The purpose of the meeting was to “discuss the status and future proceedings of the Pennichuck Water (Works) acquisition,” according to a correspondence from Alderman-at-Large Steven Bolton, the board president, to City Clerk Paul Bergeron.

The closed session was attended by the full board of aldermen, except for Ward 8 Alderman Dave MacLaughlin. Also attending were Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, city attorney James McNamee and other officials.

After the closed session, the board of aldermen convened in open session to adjourn with no other action or discussion. Lozeau said she would release a statement today.

While state regulators have given the city the green light to acquire Pennichuck Water Works by eminent domain, Lozeau in the past has said she favored skirting that process in favor of negotiating a purchase with Pennichuck Corp.

Before its ruling, the state Public Utility Commission halted eminent domain hearings as the city and Pennichuck attempted to work out a deal, potentially a stock purchase of the company. However, those negotiations collapsed, the hearings resumed and the PUC ultimately sided with Nashua, setting a purchase price of $203 million plus an additional $40 million for two small related utilities.

Some city officials have questioned whether that price was too steep. Pennichuck has appealed the ruling, and some of the company’s stockholders have pushed for Pennichuck Corp. to sell the entire company, not just Pennichuck Water Works, to Nashua.

Some city officials have said that by buying the entire company, Nashua would have better oversight over the watershed, which has been threatened by development.