Last night’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen was, shall we say, enlightening. Before the full board meeting got underway, the Committee on Administration and Information Systems approved the extension of the city’s contract with the Manchester Dog Park Association, the organization founded by former Ward Ten Alderman Phil Greazzo which built and maintains, at its own expense, Peanut Park, the city’s only dog park. Association president Kevin Roux had sought a ten year extension, but the committee approved one for five. We’ve chronicled the details of what was, at times, a painful discussion in our Live Blog Forum, to which we’ve linked.
The committee also engaged in a lengthy discussion over a request by the owner of the Pillar Manors, two historic apartment buildings on Hanover Street, to obtain a waiver to city mandated window upgrades she says will cost one hundred thousand dollars, which sounds far fetched until you learn that there are ninety six windows in each building, all of which would require custom work to be outfit with the required storms, which the city, until two thousand eleven, never cited as a problem. Again, we’ve chronicled the details in our Live Blog Forum and recommend you take a look as it was fascinating to watch government officials discuss what they would and would not force private property owners to do and why.
A potential impasse in the issue was averted when attorneys for the owner, who has filed a court action over the city’s directive and secured an interim agreement barring enforcement until the court rules on the merits which won’t be until after the hearing scheduled next May, elaborated on state statutes brought forward by committee Chair Joyce Craig. Attorney Jamie Hage said the city was wrongly using the statute to require storm windows and that the only alternative to a court action which could lead to the ordinance being overturned as unlawful, was to provide for a waiver process, which they were willing to work with the city to develop. In the end, on a motion requested by Craig, the committee directed city staff to work with the petitioner’s attorneys to develop language to amend the ordinance. Ward Two’s Ron Ludwig and Ward Nine’s Barbara Shaw backed Craig’s motion. Ward Seven’s Bill Shea and Ward Eight’s Tom Katsiantonis were opposed.
At the meeting of the Board, the aldermen heard city finance officials project a one point three million dollar surplus, which Finance Officer Bill Sanders said he hoped would be put into reserves as proposed by Mayor Ted Gatsas in his budget to sure up the city’s bond rating.
There was a lengthy and, at times, mind numbing forty five minute discussion over whether or not the city should sign onto a federal Department of Transportation so called safe streets initiative. It was clear that Public Works Director Kevin Sheppard didn’t want to get involved with the program, stating it would likely take away from the department’s other efforts,despite his admission that the department was already doing much of what the project entailed. That didn’t matter as the board voted twelve to two to do it anyway with Shaw and Ward Four Alderman Jim Roy opposed.
One of the projects occupying the Department of Public Works, of course, is the installation of nine thousand street lights. On that point, a move by Craig to give the department authority to remove lights, where there are too many, failed. The L E D lights are much brighter that those they’re replacing and there’s at least one area in her ward where the flood of new light is bringing complaints from residents. That caused Gatsas to chime in on the board’s failure to install smart controls, which, he pointed out, could have been used to adjust the brightness in areas where that was an issue. Gatsas said it was painful to listen to the complaints that could have been addressed had they done the full program. Roy agreed, saying that all the things he was mocked for suggesting would happen are happening now and there’s no good remedy.
The meeting ended with Craig unexpectedly asking for a recess to discuss negotiations, after which the board voted not to provide non-affiliated workers with any raises until and unless the union employees get them. It’s all in the Live Blog Forum for you to review.
Last, but not least, in a surprise announcement, Mayor Gatsas nominated Assistant Police Chief Nick Willard to succeed retiring Chief David J. Mara. Willard has agreed to relocate to the city within one hundred eighty days of taking the job.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
The budget knives came out in Derry last night as the Town Council voted for substantial cuts. The long knives came out for those councilors who supported the cuts as dissenters shouted down the council on virtually every vote. After Council Chair Thomas Cardon called police to remove those disrupting the meeting, protesters took to shouting at the council then leaving on their own, though former Town Councilor Neil Weatherbee, was escorted out by the police. In all, about a dozen folks removed themselves or were removed. Four councilors, Cardon, Mark Osborne, Albert Demmick and David Fischer consistently voted to make cuts opposed by the departments, town administrator and employee unions.
On four to three votes, they moved to close a fire station, eliminate eight fire fighter positions, four of which were vacant, four police positions, two of which were vacant, and two positions in the Department of Public Works. The proposed Economic Development Director was tossed, as was the assistant town administrator. Overtime budgets were slashed by about fifty percent and the step pay raises town officials sneaked into the budget despite the expiration of the union contracts were removed. As the meeting drew to a close, Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores went messianic, announcing “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” We don’t have the final cut tallies or tax impact, but it’s clear the apple cart has been upset in Derry.
Finally this morning, congratulations go out to newly elected State Rep. Yvonne Dean-Bailey who bested former State Rep. Maureen Mann in a special election to represent Candia, Deerfield, Northwood and Nottingham. The vote tally was thirteen hundred fifty nine to twelve hundred thirty, despite a barrage of left wing smear tactics, not the least of which was a bogus press release from Occupy activist and Mann campaign staffer Carl Gibson announcing Dean-Bailey had dropped out of the race. At nineteen, Dean-Bailey is the youngest member of the New Hampshire General Court.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next!