Well, the extortionist tactics of Manchester Alderman at-Large Dan O’Neil paid dividends last night as the Board of Mayor and Aldermen reversed course, ditching the L E D streetlight conversion bid offered by Philips Lighting North America in favor of the after the fact, union backed bid placed by Siemens. Last night we learned that Siemens spent a fair amount of time contesting the savings and other data presented by Public Works officials showing Philips was providing more and better light at a lower operational cost. Of course, none of that information was available to the public last night. Philips evidently got word of the assault on their product, distributing a letter affirming their numbers and quality and lowering bid by one hundred seventy five thousand dollars. The letter was completely ignored.
Ward Four Alderman Jim Roy led a valiant effort to approve the bid by Philips saying his only special interest was the taxpayers and the bid by Philips saved more money and, more importantly, worked with local taxpaying companies and their employees to get the job done. It was clear Roy’s excellent presentation, the summary of which you can see for yourself in the Live Blog Forum at Girard at Large dot com, wasn’t enough after Ward Two Alderman Ron Ludwig announced that some watching the meeting might conclude he was “a nut” after he said he would vote with whatever side he thought would be able to get the needed votes, even if that made him appear to be the” biggest flip flopper” on the planet. With the first vote cast, Ludwig had abandoned his support of Philips in favor of the union backed proposal.
Ward Seven Alderman Bill Shea tried to remove the contractors from the equation. He wanted to simply approve the bonding and let the department decide what contractor to choose. That brought howls of protest from O’Neil, whom Mayor Ted Gatsas reminded that just two weeks ago, they voted for seven million dollars in school bonding without knowing who the contractors were going to be. Shea’s proposal was, in fact, the way most contracts are awarded. It failed.
Following those failures, O’Neil moved to approve the proposal from Siemens without the smart controls, which was the more expensive of the two. It received eight votes. After much confusion and gnashing of teeth, Shea, Ward Nine Alderman Barbara Shaw and Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann also switched their votes to provide the ten votes needed to issue the bond. Ward Eight Alderman Tom Katsiantonis declared he would not switch his vote because quote “we all know this is because of politics behind the scenes and I will not support it.”
After the vote, Hirschmann offered a motion to use the savings to pay for a three million dollar bond to fix the roads. It passed by one vote, with Gatsas voting to break the tie. O’Neil, the guy who said we should be doing roads before streetlights, Craig, Ludwig, Ward Three’s Patrick Long, Ward Sixes Garth Corriveau and Ward Ten’s Bill Barry opposed. And, yes, ten votes will be needed for that bond to issue.
In other news from last night’s meeting, the board finally approved the one point eight million dollar bond to facilitate the continued expansion of the four year high school program the Manchester School of Technology, but not before Ward One Alderman Joyce Craig said she opposed the bond because she wasn’t sure the district could afford it. That argument died a pretty quick death after Alderman at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur reminded her that she voted to bond more than five million dollars to build walls at Beech Street School and another seven hundred fifty thousand more for a quote “Ward One school.” Craig’s answer was that those projects had been around for a long time and needed to be done. So, it would seem that Craig’s position is that it’s okay to vote for much bigger projects the district should also not be able to afford as long as they’ve been around for a while. Nope, can’t make this stuff up.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
The Manchester School District was notified Monday that students at Beech Street and McDonough elementary schools and Central High School who started the computer-based Smarter Balanced Assessment on March 16 took incorrect versions of the assessment because the Smarter Balanced vendor failed to provide a clear assessment selection process. Turns out the students only took practice assessments. By Monday afternoon, the vendor became aware of the issue, which also affected other schools in the state, and changed the way the selection process looks on the screen. According to a statement received from Manchester School District Communications Coordinator Andrea Alley at six thirty last night, the New Hampshire Department of Education assured the district that the three schools administered the assessment properly based on the information available at the time the test began. The affected third graders at McDonough took the correct Smarter Balanced assessment yesterday. Central and Beech Street will reschedule the correct version of the assessment for yesterday’s groups of students.
In a related story, Girard at Large has received information alleging an assembly was had at Memorial High School to bribe students into taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment by offering various prizes to those who take it and giving them a pass on math and English mid-term exams if they score high enough. We are working to confirm the allegations.
The Hooksett School Board last night unanimously approved a motion to affirm its choice model containing two anchor schools in Pinkerton and Manchester and various satellite offerings. Board member John Lyscars offered the motion at the first meeting of the new board, which now contains three new members, all of whom supported the proposed contract with Pinkerton Academy. The motion passed seven to nothing, despite concerns aired by some that negotiations with Manchester might not produce terms fair to the town, a theme often used by supporters of the Pinkerton contract who fanned the flames of fear that failure to approve the proposed contract would lead Manchester to dictate terms to the town.
Pro-Pinkerton school board member Mike Berry was elected chairman of the school board. Given how hard he campaigned to make Pinkerton the only high school choice for Hooksett and his “do or die” pronouncements on this proposal that passed, we’re not thinking the new Hooksett School Board is going to eagerly embrace a contract with Manchester. We shall see.