The Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen met last night and it was, well, interesting. Without providing the pending employee union contracts to the public for prior review and inspection as expected after their preliminary approval,the board gave final approval to several of them last night. Two weeks ago, after a non-public meeting, the board gave preliminary approval, laying the contracts on the table for the intervening two weeks during which they were supposed to have been made public. They weren’t. All we know is the contracts are one year deals that grant step, longevity and merit raises retroactively to July first. Contracts covering most of the city’s bargaining units expired on June thirtieth. Tentative agreements on longer term contracts negotiated between Mayor Ted Gatsas and various bargaining groups had been rejected by the board, leading Gatsas to recuse himself from further negotiating efforts. In wake of that decision, the board tapped City Finance Officer Bill Sanders and City Solicitor Tom Clark to negotiate on behalf of the city, ignoring Gatsas’ suggestion that the board appoint a special committee of aldermen to continue negotiations.
In response to questions from Ward One Alderman Joyce Craig, Gatsas said he supported the contracts, retro pay and all, because the eight hundred twenty six thousand dollar cost could be absorbed in this year’s budget. When pressed, he said it was different than teachers contract because that was a multi year deal that showed a deficit versus what could be raised under the tax cap starting with next year’s budget. Pretty safe bet we’ll be asking the mayor about this during our interview this morning.
The board, despite various members pitching hissy fits, also approved a three hundred thousand dollar grant from Community Development Block Grant funds to assist with the conversion of the former Hoitt Furniture building to a social services center for drug treatment and rehab. At-Large Alderman Dan O’Neil was all bent out of shape that developer Dick Anagnost had done all sorts of legwork on the plans to renovate and fill the space as intended without going to the aldermen first. He wants Anagnost to give the same presentation to the Special Committee on Alcohol and Other Drugs that he gave to the C I P Committee in search of the funds because “they deal with that.”
The board also approved issuing a Request for Proposal to conduct a dependent eligibility audit on its health and dental plans. After a lot of needless wrangling, it was approved unanimously on a voice vote.
Owners of historic properties looking for a reprieve from the requirements of the city’s Housing Code Ordinance will now be able to petition the board as it gave final approval to an amendment to the ordinance last night, in wake of protests from the owner of the Pillar Manors on Hanover Street. Housing Code inspectors had demanded storm windows be installed on the historic property, which the owner said would have cost over one hundred thousand dollars, defaced the property and caused damage to the window casings. Legal action was pending in court over the city’s directives. Only Ward Seven Alderman Bill Shea opposed the measure, saying he feared decisions over which buildings were considered historic would “become political” because of the requirement that the board determine whether or not buildings were historic and qualified for exemptions to the code.
News from our own backyard continues after this.
The Manchester VA Medical Center and Veterans Benefits Administration Regional Offices are inviting public participation in a Veteran Town Hall scheduled for tomorrow from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30. at the V A Medical Center in Manchester. The open public meeting will include congressional stakeholders, veterans service organizations, state and local governmental and non-governmental organizations, and other community partners.
According to Acting Director Danielle Ocker quote:
“It is opportunities such as this where New Hampshire’s Veterans learn about programing and services to more easily navigate VA and access their earned care and benefits. Similarly, through feedback from our valued Veterans, we at VA can learn about what is working well, and what opportunities we can explore together to enhance the health care experience for all to where Veterans will say, Manchester VA, that is ‘MyVA.’”
Subject matter experts from the Manchester VA, Health Net Federal Services and V B A will be on hand to assist veterans personally.
In the spirit of the season, the town of Derry has put up a Giving Tree in the lobby of its Municipal Center. This year, the Derry Community Fund and the Sonshine Soup Kitchen will distribute the items to needy Derry residents. Donation boxes to receive the gifted items are also located at the Municipal Center. The need this year is for winter outerwear for all ages, undergarments for men and women (sizes L & XL), personal care items and gifts for teenagers.
Town employees and members of the public are asked to take a card off the Giving Tree, purchase the items and bring them, with the card, to the Derry Municipal Center. The lobby is open weekdays from seven to four except on Wednesdays when it is open from seven to seven. In order for gifts to be distributed prior to the holiday, the last day to drop off donations is Tuesday, December 8th for the Derry Community Fund and Friday, December 18th for the Sonshine Soup Kitchen. Tax-deductible donations may be mailed to the Sonshine Soup Kitchen located at 4 Crystal Avenue #4 Derry, NH 03038, or delivered in person between 1 and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
If you are in need of holiday assistance, applications for the Derry Community Fund are available in the Human Services Office at the Municipal Center Monday through Friday from 8 to 4.
The Amherst Republican Committee will hold its monthly meeting this Saturday morning at eight in Joey’s Diner on Route 1 0 1 A in Amherst. The guest speaker will be Duncan Taylor, N H Field Director for Protect Internet Freedom. According to the organization’s website: “The greatest threat to Internet Freedom is government control. Our mission is to keep that from happening.” So, if this happens to be a topic of interest for you, feel free to attend. You’ll probably have to pay for your own breakfast, though.
That’s news from our own backyard, Girard at Large hour ___ is next.