The New Hampshire Department of Transportation made a presentation to the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen at its meeting on Tuesday night about pending bridge work on Route 2 9 3 between exits two and three. The four and one half million dollar project is slated to start in the Spring. While the D O T hasn’t decided whether or not it’ll do both spans at once or one in two thousand eighteen and the other in two thousand nineteen, they got push-back on plans to close the Westbound on-ramp that enters traffic from Brown Ave.
That proposal prompted Mayor Ted Gatsas to ask whether or not they’d actually visited the intersection, predicting that closing the ramp would create a disaster and have a significant negative impact on area businesses. Though the D O T officials said they had visited the area, that didn’t persuade Gatsas that closing the ramp was a good idea. He suggested forcing traffic on 2 9 3 down to one lane further East than planned so the ramp could stay open.
Several aldermen, including Lord Emperor Dan O’Neil, Tom Katsiantonis of Ward Eight and Barbara Shaw of Ward Nine opposed closing the ramps. O’Neil, in particular, panned the idea that signage redirecting traffic would address the problem, noting how it failed to change people’s driving habits during the whole Walmart fiasco.
At Gatsas’ suggestion, the board moved to send a letter to the D O T opposing the closure of the on-ramp. It passed unanimously with the D O T officials saying receiving feedback from the board before plans were finalized was the reason they were there..
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, there was a hairy, scary discussion over the city’s fiscal situation as a request by Police Chief Nick Willard to cover retirement severance costs came to the fore. During that discussion, which actually took place during Finance Officer Bill Sanders’ budget update, the board learned it was facing a fifty thousand dollar deficit, including unspent contingency funds, which would be used to pay the severance. It also learned that Fire Chief Dan Goonan was looking for another one hundred thirty eight thousand dollars to pay severance on more retirees. By this time in the last fiscal year, the city had only four retirements. This fiscal year to date, it’s had eleven.
There was some acrimonious discussion over the failure to fund severance in the budget and some frightening conversations over tapping economic development and Rainy Day reserves to make the severance payments rather than keep positions open to work off the expense. Sanders said tapping those designated reserves should only be done in an extreme, dire emergency, warning that bond rating agencies would not look kindly on such expenditures. He expects to be visiting with those agencies soon, by the way, as the city will be issuing bonds for a variety of capital projects this year within the next couple of months.
Ward Five Alderman Tony Sapienza took the opportunity to say that the city needs to rethink severance payouts, which consist of large amounts of unused sick and vacation time that get paid to employees when they retire. The average severance payout is around forty thousand dollars. He called the payouts a quote “big monster” and said it was a quote “crazy system.” In the real world, said Sapienza, vacation and sick time are a wash because they exist to replace wages for days not worked. They’re not saved up for a retirement payout. He said the city had to make a structural change to its labor union contracts by eventually eliminating this practice because it simply isn’t affordable anymore.
That prompted Emperor O’Neil to complain that the problem wasn’t severance or the contracts, but the city’s failure to properly fund the budget, which he blamed the mayor and aldermen for not doing, as did spendthrift Ward Four Alderman Christopher Herbert, to nobody’s surprise.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
Ward Six School Board Candidate Jon DiPietro has organized an education round-table featuring state Commissioner of Education Frank Edelblut. According to a news release, DiPietro said Edelblut will make opening remarks and attending school board candidates will then introduce themselves, followed by the discussion, which will be moderated by Edelblut. DiPietro said the topics of conversation will include:
- Title One funding,
- Special education,
- Cost downshifting,
- Standardized testing, and
- Parental rights and involvement.
The event is free and open to all school board candidates and the public. The public will be invited to ask questions. The event will be held on the evening of October Nineteenth from seven to nine and at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications in Manchester. We’ve got the link you’ll need to register in advance with this news read at Girard at Large dot com.
Educators from Brazil looking for help reforming their country’s education system are coming to Manchester. The World Affairs Council of New Hampshire has arranged for the group to tour the Manchester School of Technology, where they will learn how competency-based classes support students’ mastery of knowledge and skills. The delegation is part of the International Visitor Leadership Program, a professional development exchange administered by the U. S. Department of State. A recent article featuring M S T in the Christian Science Monitor caught the eye of State Department officials, who wanted to select the right location for the Brazilians to focus on.
In making the announcement, Superintendent Dr. Bolgen Vargas said the Brazilians are quote:
“very interested in how Manchester School of Technology is reinventing the idea of what high school can provide to students. We look forward to sharing what we do in Manchester that could drive change on an international scale.”
They’ll visit the school today from nine to Noon. We’ve been unable to confirm rumors that Brazilian supermodel, and Tom Brady’s trophy wife, Gisel Bundchen will be along for the tour.
The town of Amherst has announced that Town Hall will be closed on Monday in observance of Columbus Day. We assume that means all town operations will have the day off, but we don’t know because their announcement only said that Town Hall will be closed. Just so you know.