A whole lot of stuff happened at the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen last night and we’ve linked to the blow by blow details in our Live Forum Blog. The board learned that the purchase and sale agreement it had for the former police station was terminated by the buyer. They went into non-public session following the meeting to learn the details, but not before Alderman at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur pitched a hissy fit over not seeing the buyer’s first letter asking for price concessions. It didn’t seem to matter that Economic Development Director William Craig said the termination letter came within two days of the concession request, leaving the city no time to respond. Ward 7 Alderman Bill Shea suggested the city raze the building and sell the lot or use it for parking in the area rather than incurring the ongoing maintenance costs to hold the building indefinitely. It will remain on the market until at least June 30th.
In a special joint meeting of the committees on Administration and Lands and Buildings, the aldermen sent proposed lease revisions requested by the management of The Derryfield Restaurant to staff for a variety of reasons. Ward 8 Alderman Tommy Katsiantonis, himself a restaurant owner, said the proposed revisions appeared to be good for the restaurant, but not for the city. Ward 3 Alderman Patrick Long questioned whether or not the proposed changes would really be revenue neutral to the city as claimed by the management. And, Alderman at-Large Dan O’Neil, while not a member of the committee, advised that even if all other items were agreed to, which includes changes to the lease’s financial payments and extension terms, the proposed expansion of the north parking lot was quote unquote a deal breaker. He said the area has been used for decades for passive recreation and said he smiles every time he drives by residents sledding down the hill; something he doesn’t want to take away. O’Neil said that with the exception of about a dozen times a year, mostly when the weather is nice, parking isn’t a problem. The ownership’s lawyer Roy Tilsley countered that the lack of parking limits what the restaurant can do for banquets stating they lose many functions over parking concerns.
The Committee on Administration tabled a proposal to create a storm water utility which would be similar to and piggyback on the administrative infrastructure of the city’s Environmental Protection Division, its waste water treatment operation. During the presentation, the committee was told that fifty five percent of the city’s storm drains were still combined with the sewer, meaning forty five percent of the city’s storm drains were paid for by the taxpayers because they’re serviced by the Public Works Department. The creation of this storm water utility would allow the city to assess fees to offset those costs and take them off the tax base. The utility was first proposed, or at least considered in two thousand seven, in response to pending federal mandates that, if enacted, could cost the city between half a BILLION and three quarters of a BILLION dollars to satisfy. Officials said the city’s response to the proposed requirements has drawn the input of forty other New Hampshire communities who would suffer similar fates if the federal requirements are imposed. The committee also tabled several permit fee hikes proposed by the Department of Planning and Community Development.
News form our own backyard continues after this.
Chickens once again dominated discussion. The Committee on Administration approved a proposal that would allow chickens on any property that was at least a half acre in size and allow people to petition the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance if they didn’t meet the space requirements. At the board’s public participation session, Hevey Street resident Caitlin McCarthy said she had 4 chickens in a prefab sort of coup that lived rather comfortably on the fifty three hundred square foot multi family lot, saying they had plenty of room and were adored by the neighborhood kids. She said she was forced to remove them in the dead of winter after the city contacted her landlord and told him they had to go or he would face fines. Ward 2 Alderman Ron Ludwig told Girard at Large after the meeting had he heard her testimony before voting at committee, he would have voted differently, which is why we say this isn’t done, yet. It still has to go back to the full board and we’d bet there are going to be more changes.
Mayor Ted Gatsas announced he will present his budget at a special meeting he’s called for Monday March Thirty First at 6 P M. We’ll see if we can get the mayor to give us a glimpse of his proposal this morning during his segment. The announced date is the very last day the mayor may, by charter, present his budget. Gatsas has, in the past, released his figures in February. In response to a question by Ward 1 Alderman Joyce Craig, Gatsas said he would ask the Hooksett School Board for a joint meeting with the Manchester Board of School Committee after the new members were seated. That was supposed to happen last night, but has been delayed by a pending recount.
In three separate votes, the board also approved proposed hikes in parking fees with Mayor Gatsas having to break a tie on one vote. He would have had to break ties on the other two, but Ward 5 Alderman Ed Osborne abstained on the votes, so they passed on votes of seven to six. In favor of the fees were Long, Ward 4’s Jim Roy, who started a melee by calling the Committee on Bills on Second Reading out for its failure to act within board rules, Shea, Katsiantonis, Ward 9’s Barbara Shaw, Ward 10’s Bill Barry and Ward 11’s Normand Gamache.
Finally, yesterday, we said we’d report today on how Ward 6 Alderman Garth Corriveau‘s big night went. You may recall he had three items on the agenda. We’ve already told you how the chicken ordinance went. It wasn’t his proposal. His proposed Wellness Officer was referred to committee without discussion. And, well, his attempt to get things squared away on the process of how elderly tax exemptions are renewed was kind of painful to watch. We don’t want to pour salt on those wounds, but he would have been better served to make a phone call to learn about how the city really handles them rather than make statements about a process he clearly didn’t know or understand and have to be corrected in public on multiple occasions.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ starts right now.