City says little, maybe too little, on Pennichuck

No news isn’t always good news – or even bad news, for that matter.

More often than not, no news is just that: no news.

The mayor’s office told The Telegraph on Friday afternoon to await an announcement concerning the city’s attempts to acquire the Pennichuck Water Works utility. The announcement would be coming shortly after 5 p.m., the mayor’s staff said.

Timing like that isn’t unexpected; it’s after the stock market closes, so it wouldn’t affect the water utility’s stock prices. It could mean something big.

Reporters and editors awaited the announcement, which finally arrived via e-mail at 7 p.m. Friday.

The announcement? A prepared statement by Mayor Donnalee Lozeau concerning a ruling the state Public Utilities Commission had made the previous week, and which had already been widely reported by The Telegraph and other publications.

On March 13, the PUC denied requests that both Pennichuck and the city made for a rehearing on the eminent domain proceedings. In shooting down Pennichuck’s request, the quasi-judicial panel affirmed its ruling that it’s in the public’s best interests for the city to pursue the acquisition of the utility, which provides water to Nashua and surrounding communities.

The PUC also denied the city’s rehearing request. The city disagreed with the $203 million value that the commission had placed on the utility.In her statement, Lozeau wrote, “We continue to believe that the NHPUC’s proposed value of $203 million for the Pennichuck assets is too high. Accordingly, the City plans to appeal the valuation issue to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Pennichuck recently announced that it will also appeal certain aspects of the NHPUC ruling.”

That quote contained the closest thing to “news” in the release. While Pennichuck had said it would appeal to the state’s highest court, the city never directly said it would file an appeal, although it was widely speculated that would happen.

The mayor’s release also noted that Pennichuck would allow Gabelli & Co. to appoint two members to its board of directors, an action Lozeau said the city welcomes. Gabelli had argued in favor of the city and Pennichuck working out a deal that would allow the city to buy the utility without going through the eminent-domain process.

However, the city disagrees with a figure contained in a Gabelli study that estimated Pennichuck shareholders would receive $31.04 per share if the entire company were liquidated following an eminent-domain taking.

It’s interesting that Lozeau felt compelled to issue a carefully worded reaction to a week-old ruling through an e-mail delivered by her communications director. It shows the sensitivity of the proceedings between Pennichuck and the city.

Lozeau has long said she’s no fan of the eminent-domain process, and there’s speculation that representatives of the city and Pennichuck Corp. have quietly returned to the negotiating table. There are also indications that city officials and Pennichuck officials are bound by a confidentiality agreement that restrains what each side can say about any negotiations.

Under such a scenario, even “no news” about the acquisition emerges in a quiet, cautious dribble.

Six moths later

Here’s an interesting deadline.

June 12 is the last day the city will help residents clean up from last December’s ice storm.

Last week, the city’s Division of Public Works and Parks and Recreation Department announced its annual spring cleanup schedule for brush and limbs from winter storm damage.

The cleanup will run from April 27-June 12, and pickups will be made by appointment only. To schedule a pickup, residents must call the parks department at 589-3370 before April 20.

Residents must place all material at curbside in sizes that can be handled by hand for removal. The material will be collected only from the right of way and city crews won’t enter private property to remove brush or limbs.

Residents may also take the items to the Four Hills Landfill at 840 West Hollis St.

Proof of residency is required to obtain a permit to use the landfill. The yearly permit costs $5. The landfill is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Brush should be 6 inches or less in diameter, and cut ends must be placed toward the street. Shrubs must be clean of sand and soil.

Metal items won’t be accepted. For information on having metal items picked up, call the solid waste department at 589-3410.

Also unacceptable: household hazardous waste and leftover Christmas trees.

Take a hike

Here’s another announcement from the folks at Public Works and Parks and Recreation: The 2009 Spring Walking Program is ready to go.

The first walk will begin at 9 a.m. Monday, April 6, at the Whipple Street entrance to Mine Falls Park. The program will run through June 5. All walks will begin at 9.

On Mondays, walkers should meet at the Whipple Street entrance to Mine Falls Park. On Wednesdays, the meeting place is the Lincoln Park entrance to Mine Falls.

On Fridays, meet at the Gilson Road parking lot for the Nashua River Rail Trail.

To get to the parking lot, take Countryside Drive off of West Hollis Street. Gilson Road is at the end of Countryside, and the parking lot is near the intersection.

Surgery success for city pupil

Ryan Cavanaugh, a 10-year-old boy who needed to undergo emergency open-heart surgery earlier this month, had a successful procedure and is on his way to recovery, Nicole Dane, a friend of the family, said last week.

Ryan is a fourth-grade student at Charlotte Avenue Elementary School, but he has been out of school since his family learned he would need the surgery. He underwent surgery at Children’s Hospital Boston on March 12.

Dane said the community continues to show support for the family, which has received several items to raffle off. The list of items includes a pair of Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees tickets for June 9 and gift certificates to P&L Landscaping, the 99 Restaurant, Dunkin’ Donuts and the Dowg Shack.

Raffle tickets are $5, and all proceeds go to the Cavanaugh family. The raffle will run from today to March 31. The drawing will be April 1.

For more information, call Charlotte Avenue School at 594-4334.