Deliberate Design? - City Hall Remodel Makes it Harder To Hold Them Accountable - Granite Grok

Deliberate Design? – City Hall Remodel Makes it Harder To Hold Them Accountable

Nashua City Hall

COVID, taxes, and surplus dollars have allowed the City of Nashua to give City Hall a makeover. They’ve added Fort Knox like 2-inch thick bulletproof glass – impervious to bullets and (COVID?), and Keypad locks on virtually every door in City Hall.

Only assessing, motor vehicle, tax, and the clerk’s offices are unlocked during normal business hours.

The Mayor and legal office walls are ‘plagued’ with appointments by phone only and the legal office has informed the public that they often don’t answer their phones. Throughout city hall, phones ring unanswered.

It appears all of these renovations were done ignoring customer service.

Prior to the renovations, the assessing office had about 60 sq. ft of counter space and 3 computer stations for property owners to meet with staff and look up information sharing drawings and property cards. The newly redesigned customer service area has 2 computer stations and about 15 sq. ft of countertop space. The space is inadequate to set up a computer or open drawings and files. There is no table or chairs for working comfort.

No doubt, the Mayor wanted to shut down any research going on in the assessing office.

What about the Clerk’s office? The old office had a bar-height counter that could service 4-5 people, and, as soon as you entered, clerks immediately assisted those at the counter. This is no longer the case. The renovated clerk’s office has 5 chair height counter customer service cubbies with thick safety glass and no seating.

They installed shades on the windows drawn most of the day, so citizens remain unseen by clerks. The line is long and slow; customer frustration is high. Often you can hear the clerks in the back speaking.

Friday, 5 people were waiting for customer service with 1 window in the back corner of the office open. The first customer being serviced had a time-consuming matter. Not their fault. The wait was too long. Citizens felt frustrated commenting that they could hear the employees in the back while the service windows remained closed.

Some left.

The motor vehicle office is well known for excellent customer service but could use a small improvement. Paying a temp agency to oversee appointments is no longer necessary, and service should be first come, first serve.

The IT department no longer has a director, so digital records security is unknown, and the audio quality of our recorded meetings has degraded. Additionally, the TV guide for channel 16 has disappeared, so citizens no longer know when public meetings are running. For some of those meetings that replay, sometimes, the attendees cannot be heard speaking. In some cases, they never play a meeting.

Why all the locks?

Our Mayor believes that no one has any business asking for financial, HR, payroll, community or economic development, purchasing, or IT information. Basically, the departments that take payments are open for access; the departments that would tell residents how tax money is being spent and how the government is being run are now closed to the public.

The old city hall may not have been as pretty but certainly was designed to be the people’s building with accessible, timely customer service and information access. The leadership that oversaw the million-dollar renovation forgot about the citizens as customers. Apparently, we are no longer the masters. We’ve become the servants.