04-15-2014 News

Well, it was an eventful night in Manchester government last night.  At special meeting the Board of Mayor and Aldermen called in conjunction with the budget, Fire Chief James Burkush said the increased funding the mayor proposed for his budget was short three hundred thousand dollars he said he needed to maintain current operations.  He also projected retirements

Burkush: Mayor's budget increase not enough

Burkush: Closing stations?

would incur almost a half a million dollars in severance payouts the nineteen point million dollar budget proposed by the mayor would not be able to handle.  He said that if the aldermen didn’t fund the severance account, there would likely be layoffs and station closings beginning in July to offset the cost of having to pay the severance out of his budget.  All totaled, Burkush was looking for the aldermen to add another eight hundred thousand dollars to the budget.

Chief David Mara

Mara: Out of business?

Police Chief David J. Mara painted a similarly grim picture.  He said the increased funding proposed by the mayor was more than half a million dollars shy of what he needed to maintain the status quo.  He also said that if he had to pay the more than seven hundred thousand dollars in severance costs estimated for projected retirements, the police department quote “would be out of business.”  Mara said he would be forced to lay police officers off to absorb those costs.  He’s looking for more than one point two million dollars to be added to the budget.  That brings the total requested additions to the budget to more than two million dollars.

The aldermen also learned from Finance Officer Bill Sanders that the six to seven million dollar hole Mayor Ted Gatsas left in the budget by not funding the severance and

Barry: Charging for Right to Know

Barry: Charging for Right to Know

contingency line items and short funding the health care trust might be as much as eight million dollars given what he heard from the two chiefs about possible retirements.  The aldermen will hear from the city’s Public Works Director and Superintendent of Schools tonight in another special meeting before their regular meeting.  The Committee on Administration is also scheduled to meet tonight.  On their agenda is a proposed Right to Know policy submitted by Ward Ten Alderman Bill Barry that we’ll need to weigh in on.  We note with interest that the proposal bypassed the board’s normal process and went straight to committee without first being presented to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for referral, which is the normal process.

We’ve linked to our Live Forum Blog of the special meeting from this newscast at Girard at Large dot com so you can see how it unfolded in real time.

News from our own backyard continues after this.

The Manchester Board of School Committee was in session last night and it wasn’t a short meeting.  Nine or ten parents

Chickens at School Board?

Chickens at School Board?

opposed to suggested changes to Jewett Street School came forward making emotional arguments as to why nothing should change there.  The quote of the night came from Jimmy Lehoux who said if the school board spent as much time discussing redistricting as the aldermen spent discussing chickens, they might come up with a decent plan.  Ward 9 Committeeman Arthur Beaudry’s motion to keep Jewett Street School a K through 5 elementary school was tabled on a vote of eight to six.  Superintendent Debra Livingston told the board the proposal regarding Jewett Street School was one of many under consideration and asked for time to continue to investigate it and others.  She said she’d had good meetings with stakeholders at the school and learned a lot they’d not considered.  Several members of the public spoke regarding the announced settlement between the administration and the federal Office of Civil Rights, including one self described activist, Brenda Lett, who accused the district of institutional racism, saying its structures failed to recognize people of African and Latino decent as human beings.  Wow…She applauded the settlement saying more “non-European” kids needed to be in A P classes and demanded not only that more “non-European” staff be hired, but that sensitivity training be given to councilors who either can’t or won’t understand minority students.  Livingston did not present the terms

Ryan: Not moving.

Ryan: Not moving.

of the settlement saying they were working on a plan to comply with it.  As if that’s not enough, the district scrapped its policy requiring top level administrators to live in the city if they want the job.  While the topic is controversial enough, the policy went retro, releasing Assistant Superintendent David Ryan from the requirement he contractually agreed to when he accepted the position that he move to the city.  That didn’t sit well with several board members including Ward Six Committeewoman Robyn Dunphy who said he should be expected to honor the contract he signed because nobody put a gun to his had to sign it and Ward Three’s Christopher Stewart who said absolving him of the requirement was quote “just wrong” end quote.  A motion to make the policy apply to future hires by Ward Two’s Deb Langton failed.  But no worries, the board also changed policies so now kids with bugs in their head, also know as lice, can stay in school and give the bugs to your kid, even though Health Officer Tim Soucy was forced to admit under questioning from Dunphy, that the schools lacked the proper facilities needed to keep children’s coats, hats and mittens separate from others so that the lice couldn’t be transmitted by clothing contact.  Multiple parents opposed the policy change during public participation, including one mom who said the next time her daughter gets lice from band camp because the kids share hats, she’s bringing her to Soucy’s house so he can pick through her hair for hours each day to rid the infestation of nits and lice.

We’ve linked to our real time Live Forum Blog coverage from this news read at Girard at Large dot com.

Finally this morning, Mayor Ted Gatsas was released from the hospital on Sunday and is back home.  He expects to be back in the office at City Hall on Monday.

That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ starts right now.