So, what are those charges for?
Alderman-at-Large David Deane arrived at the aldermanic Finance Committee with a thick pile of yellow notes posted to his copy of the city’s financial warrant.
Deane had a series of questions to throw at school Business Administrator Mark Conrad, Chief Financial Officer Carol Anderson and Mayor Bernie Streeter.
His queries touched on unusual payments from the city to places such as a steakhouse and George’s Apparel, a Manchester clothing store.
Question: Why is the city paying $1,531 to George’s Apparel?
Answer: Police officers get a clothing allowance in their contract in order to wear spiffy suits to court or on other duties.
Question: Why did the School Department pay $494 to Foster’s Steakhouse in Plymouth with federal money for reading programs?
Answer from Conrad: It was an all-day training program organized by state officials. Attendance required the School Department to pay $26 per person.
Question: A Sky Meadow breakfast meeting for $1,413?
Answer from Conrad: The meeting celebrated the 20th anniversary of an award-winning volunteer program. Some 6,000 volunteers contributed 200,000 hours of service that would have cost $2.5 million to provide. A grant is paying the $14.95-per-head cost of the breakfast.
City officials need to be held responsible to answer questions about spending money, Deane said. And the issue is how does this school spending help to improve curriculum, he said.
Alderman-at-Large Paula Johnson crossed swords with members of the Board of Education at the same meeting Monday night.
Johnson read minutes at the meeting from a group called the Education Council as it discussed the twice-rejected contract for school principals.
Johnson and other aldermen were annoyed at how members of the council, which is made up of school administrators, union leaders and school board members, questioned the actions of the Board of Aldermen.
Terms such as “pre-emptive strike,” talk of overstepping boundaries and the union president suggesting there are 1,500 union members ready to lobby and persuade aldermen did not endear the education leaders to some aldermen.
Johnson, whose son recently graduated from Nashua High School, said she didn’t appreciate the comment from school board member Rick Dowd that some aldermen may not know what a principal’s job entails.
Main Street is a smooth ride, except for the railroad crossing at Canal Street.
A large, hand-painted, orange sign announces “BUMP,” and cars have an off-road experience to prove it.
City engineer Steve Dookran said about 100 feet of the road was purposely left unimproved as the length of Main Street was refurbished during the summer and fall. The developer at the future Peddler’s Daughter pub needed to do underground utility work, so it didn’t make sense to put down asphalt, only to tear it up, Dookran said. That project took longer than expected, he said.Now at this time of year, it is hard to find contractors to do the roadwork, Dookran said.
“It may happen,” he said. “I can’t promise that.”
The city’s goal would be to level the bumps at the crossing in time for the Winter Holiday Stroll, but save a final coating until next year, he said.
Talking about trains
Alderman-at-Large David Rootovich plans to invite Congressman Charlie Bass to City Hall for a chat.
Rootovich said he would get in touch with the congressman, a personal friend, to talk rail.
Some city officials have been pushing for a plan to connect Nashua with Boston by extending the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter train from Lowell, Mass. The project is estimated to cost $70.1 million, and the city needs to match 20 percent of the total cost, an estimated $14 million, to tap into federal funding.
The project has stalled, largely over uncertainty about where the local funding will come from.
On Tuesday, the veteran city politician said he wants to understand the perspective of Congress in ensuring Nashua residents don’t get left holding the bag if money falls short. Rootovich said he would like to hear some guarantees.