It was a relatively boring, but long meeting of the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen last night; one that will have consequences felt by just about all residents in the city sooner than you may know.
The “Marquis Item” of the night was a presentation by the Association of Manchester Principals at both the Joint Special Committee on Education, which includes school board members and aldermen, and board itself. Once the rhetoric about how great the city was, how amazing the people in the buildings were and that they were “there for the students who deserve the best” was peeled back, the brass tax of their presentation was that they wanted the school budget to be wrapped up and adopted by the second Tuesday in March, universal pre-school to be implemented on a citywide basis and a commitment to pursue an alternative school to deal with, as Association President Brendan McCafferty put it, those handful of kids in each school that need a different environment.
Mayor Ted Gatsas said he thought there were ways to get a school budget done earlier in the year, but that he didn’t think it could be done by March, emphasizing that the state controls numbers that are important to the city’s budget efforts. Lord Emperor Dan O’Neil, he’s the board chairman, dismissed Gatsas’ concerns saying the charter requires the budget to be passed by the second week of June, but that the state has until the end of June to pass a budget. Ward Three Alderman Patrick Long inquired about whether or not the city could change the budget once it was appropriated, to which Finance Officer Bill Sanders said “no.” Sanders said the only thing the city could do was appropriate revenues in excess of projections if they were certified by both himself and the mayor and only if overall revenues in the aggregate were more than projected in the budget. That, he said, was something that wouldn’t happen until near the end of the fiscal year.
Addressing the points about an early budget and alternative school, Gatsas pointed to the budget he proposed two years ago in early February, which sat on the table un-addressed by either board until sometime in May and the deal he negotiated with the state to lease the Stark House on the Sununu Youth Center property for one dollar so the city could open an alternative school. He said that languished for months after former Superintendent Tom Brennan retired without any support before the state walked away from the deal.
The principals acknowledged that they may be late to the party, but that they’re here now and ready to work on such things. McCafferty suggested if the district got its budget in March, then perhaps the alternative school would have happened because they would have had time to plan. All sides agreed to an ongoing dialogue on a monthly basis at the special committee, where the principals asked to have ex-officio seats. We have some thoughts on all this, which we will, of course, share this morning.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Manchester residents bracing for Winter will have another item to contend with: A major change in the city’s Odd/Even parking scheme. For more than twenty years, the city has allowed on-street overnight parking during Winter months on an alternating basis. If tomorrow morning is an even day, you park on the even side of the street. If tomorrow morning is an odd day, you park on the odd side of the street.
Apparently, that’s too complicated for Ward Two Alderman Ron Ludwig who protested over the twenty one hundred tickets issued for violations of the rules in two thousand thirteen. He, of course, was fighting for the little guy who didn’t come to City Hall to complain about the tickets, even though the all the aldermen, but one, who represent the wards most affected by the rules opposed the change. This was a two-fer battle, fought once at the Public Safety and Traffic Committee and once at the board.
Despite opposition from Public Works Director Kevin Sheppard and being told that the city had already printed one hundred fifty thousand cards the police put on windshield instead of tickets, like they do every year, at the beginning of the season, the aldermen voted to install a MONTHLY odd/even overnight parking scheme where, in even months, people park on the even side of the street and in odd months they park on the odd side of the street. The aldermen whose wards were most effected by tickets, Ward Five’s Tony Sapienza, Ward Seven’s Bill Shea, Ward Eleven’s Norm Gamache and Ward Twelve’s Keith Hirschmann voted no, along with Ward Nine’s Barbara Shaw and Ward Ten’s Bill Barry. Ward Four Alderman Jim Roy was absent and did not vote.
The aldermen also approved one hundred fifteen thousand dollars to aid the battle against heroin last night. Serenity Place will receive forty thousand dollars directly to keep its eight bed detox facility open through the end of the year and the newly formed partnership between them and Hope for New Hampshire will receive seventy five thousand dollars to provide immediate services to heroin addicts who want to break their addiction.
The discussion was tense at times with Mayor Ted Gatsas seeking a guarantee that Manchester tax dollars will be used to serve Manchester residents, citing a recent trip by an ambulance from Fremont bringing one of their citizens to Serenity Place to detox. Serenity Place representatives said they couldn’t guarantee that all people treated with the city’s money would be city residents, but that ninety eight percent of the people who occupy their eight beds are city residents.
Things got nasty when Board chairman, Lord Emperor Dan O’Neil criticized the mayor’s opposition over such a paltry sum of money when the city could take such “bold action” to address the crisis. Gatsas said he didn’t oppose the funding, but wanted to be careful not to tap contingency funds for more than was necessary and was afraid that the board’s action would set a precedent that would have non-profits knocking on the door looking for money the city doesn’t have.
Congratulations go out to the Central High School chapter of the Tri-M Music Honor Society. The group was recognized as the New Hampshire Chapter of the Year during the New Hampshire Music Educators Association conference on October fifteenth. The Manchester School District notified the media of the award yesterday.
Central’s chapter is made up of thirty four students in band, chorus and orchestra and was lauded for its various service projects in and out of school, such as hosting music department events and producing an annual concert benefiting the New Horizons soup kitchen.
The Tri-M Music Honor Society is the international music honor society for middle, junior high and high school students. It is designed to recognize students for their academic and musical achievements, reward them for their accomplishments and service activities and inspire other students to excel at music and leadership.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next.