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Back and forth: Nashua Mayor, Pennichuck chief air differences over failed talks.

The chief executive of Pennichuck Corp. is challenging statements made Feb. 17 by Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau in her State of the City address.

In her speech, Lozeau urged Pennichuck's Duane Montopoli to reveal publicly the content of failed negotiations between the city and Pennichuck. Nashua has been attempting to take ownership of Pennichuck Water Works through eminent domain proceedings, and the matter is now before the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

"I'm not sure what she means by that," Montopoli said in response to Lozeau's call, adding that the mayor is using the company as a scapegoat to divert attention away from the city's problems.

"It looks to me like the mayor is using Pennichuck to keep the focus away from other major issues, such as the school budget deficit,"

Montopoli did say he is willing to meet with the mayor and then take her request to Pennichuck's full board of directors for consideration.

Montopoli also challenged several specific statements that Lozeau made in her address.

For example, Lozeau said that soon after a presentation that city experts made to the Board of Aldermen in January, Pennichuck sold almost 400,000 shares at $21 a share. Pennichuck also made a presentation to a legislative committee at which it valued the entire company at $134 million, Lozeau said.

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During eminent domain proceedings, Pennichuck argued the company was worth $273 million.

"That's a nice try by the mayor," Montopoli said of Lozeau's mention of the $134 million valuation. "Those valuations were done by the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration, not Pennichuck, and were done for purposes of assessing the state utility tax," Montopoli said.

The state DRA looked at different assets, such as original costs, than what the city is trying to take by eminent domain, Montopoli said. For example, the DRA didn't look at fair market value, he said.

--THE TELEGRAPH

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Title Annotation:Donnalee Lozeau
Publication:New Hampshire Business Review
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1U1NH
Date:Feb 26, 2010
Words:315
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