“It was a dark and stormy night” in Manchester last night. No, really it was and I’m not just talking about the weather.
There were some interesting moments during the meeting of the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen that almost earned that introductory line. Aldermen got something of an earful from neighbors abutting a proposed rezoning change on South Mammoth Road. If approved, the change would allow two hundred rental units to be built on twenty four plus acres on three parcels of land that, as currently zoned, would allow for up to twenty six single family homes to be built. One woman cited the problems that already exist with the more modest development across South Mammoth Road from where the proposed developments would be built. She said developer using that existing development to say that his projects would be in keeping with the character of the areas was a joke given the entirety of the area.
We’ve linked to our Live Blog Forum of the meeting with this news read so you can get an idea of what was said.
The process of taking the deeds to sixteen properties with back taxes totaling more than one million dollars was started last night. The aldermen are trying to fast track the process to take advantage of the fact that there are interested buyers for five of the properties. The delinquent taxes go back to the 2 0 1 0 Tax Year.
The aldermen didn’t care much to see the proposed amendments to the agreement the city has with the McIntyre Ski Area. Without letting the petitioners who asked to bypass the committee process and go directly to the board with their request speak, the board sent the proposal to the Committee on Lands and Buildings. Time being of the essence, the committee will report to the board before its next regular meeting in two weeks.
We have to phrase it that way, because the next meeting of the board will be a special one to adopt a budget on June thirteenth, the very last day the aldermen have to act on the budget under the city charter, lest the mayor’s proposal become the budget by default. One thing we learned last night is that City Finance Officer Bill, I guess they tricked me in Concord, Sanders is now projecting a budget surplus upwards of one point five million dollars. Expect the aldermen to attempt to use all of that as onetime revenue for the coming fiscal year. By ordinance, any surplus must be split equally between the city’s Rainy Day Fund and the taxpayer. However, a vote of ten aldermen can redirect those funds however they see fit.
No action was taken on the budget last night, despite several school principals urging the board to approve the request of Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas and the Board of School Committee to increase the school district’s allocation by two million dollars, a number that Ward Nine Alderman Barbara Shaw, co-chair of the Special Joint Committee on Education, said was the bare minimum needed to maintain the schools and advance critical initiatives. Vargas himself called the additional funding crucial, telling the board that his request was a break from the past because the money requested won’t go to maintain the status quo, but to make important changes that added needed programming at the middle schools and reduced class sizes at the elementary schools.
I’ll have to go back and look, but it seems to me that conversation went for about two hours between the board, Vargas, School Board Vice-Chair Arthur Beaudry and Business Administrator Karen DeFrancis.
Also of note last night was a big push made by Mayor Ted Gatsas to address the city’s rather troublesome panhandling pandemic. Gatsas produces a letter from Public Works Director Kevin Sheppard saying that islands and medians are, in fact, located within the city’s rights of way and maintained by the department. Gatsas wanted the board to direct the police department to enforce the city’s panhandling ordinances in those spaces and have the city solicitor support the department’s efforts.
That didn’t go over well with City Solicitor Tom Clark, who asked Gatsas to recess the meeting to confer with legal counsel, after which a motion to have Clark and Police Chief Nick Willard work together on enforcement issues was unanimously approved. In addition to enforcement, look for signs that basically say “don’t feed the panhandlers,” (think “don’t feed the bears”) to start popping up around town, too. Gatsas and Willard say that people’s good intentions giving money to the panhandlers are the reason why the problem is growing. They say it needs to stop if the panhandling problem is to be brought under control.
At-Large Alderman Dan O’Neil, deposed Lord Emperor of the Board, said that many of the people panhandling are scam artists. He told a story relayed to him by a police officer who asked a contractor friend to offer a panhandler a job at fifteen bucks an hour. The panhandler’s response to the offer was quote:
Why would I do that? I make more money panhandling!
Gatsas and others shared stories of what they called “organized panhandling” designed to scam people by people who aren’t actually needy.
Publisher’s Note: Click here for Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard’s open letter to the community on panhandling.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Ward One Alderman Kevin Cavanaugh, Democrat from Manchester, will face off with former State Senator David Boutin, Republican from Hooksett, in the general election to replace deceased Senator Scott McGilvray, Democrat from Hooksett, in Senate District Sixteen. Cavanaugh beat Attorney Jim Normand in yesterday’s primary vote by better than two to one, thirteen seventy four to six twenty four. Boutin ran unchallenged in the Republican primary. The special election will be held on Tuesday, July twenty fifth. District Sixteen includes Manchester wards One, Two and Twelve and the towns of Dunbarton, Candia, Hooksett and Bow.
Speaking of filling vacancies, Girard at Large has learned that there are three applicants to fill the vacant at-Large seat on the Hooksett Town Council. John Lyscars, the once member of the Hooksett School Board who was instrumental in creating the town’s current high school choice model enabling Hooksett students to pick from high schools in Manchester, Derry, Bow, Pembroke, Goffstown, and Londonderry, maybe even Bedford, I’ll have to look that one up, has submitted his application, as has Thomas Keach. The council will continue to accept applications up until their meeting starts on June fourteenth. We’ve linked to the details for those interested in applying.
The Candia Police Department has issued an advisory, for real, for the neighborhoods along Critchett Road. A burglary was reported on that road yesterday and police are urging residents to secure their properties and contact them immediately if they spot anything suspicious.
That’s NEWS from our own backyard! Girard at Large hour ___ is next!