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Paul Feely's City Hall: Vargas gung-ho for a third contract year; no anonymous evaluations

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader

November 18. 2017 11:29PM




Thirteen months after taking the reins of the state’s largest school district, Supt. of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas said last week he would like to extend his contract to a third year.

To paraphrase actress Sally Field — he likes you, Manchester. He really likes you.

Last year, city school board members approved a 21-month contract with Vargas, with an option for an additional year.

The contract runs through June 30, 2018, and states board members will notify Vargas no later than Jan. 1, 2018, of any intention to extend the contract through June 30, 2019, subject to an evaluation by the board.

The deal also includes a clause stating the board will provide Vargas with a written performance evaluation that includes both individual and collective opinions of board members on Dec. 15, 2017.

Failure to complete the evaluations results in a ‘satisfactory evaluation’ being placed in the superintendent’s file, according to the contract.

During last week’s school board meeting, At Large member Rich Girard asked Vargas if he was interested in extending his contract with the district for a third year as currently written.

“The answer is yes, as long as this board wishes me to continue to serve and also this community,” said Vargas. “The answer is absolutely yes. I would not create a team and bring people around me, only to leave them behind. That is not the kind of person that I am.”

School board Vice Chair Art Beaudry of Ward 9 said he would ask clerk Maura Wellington to send out evaluation forms, and asked they be returned by the end of this week. The responses will then be compiled into a brief report.

“I will meet with the superintendent and talk about the evaluation,” said Beaudry. “We are not going to do what we did last time and have the evaluations put out there before the superintendent even knows what they said. It will be a little different, but the evaluations will be out.”

Beaudry also said he is looking to do away with past practice by some board members of handing in “anonymous” evaluations.

“I want all members to sign their evaluations,” said Beaudry. “There are not going to be any anonymous evaluations this year. If you have comments to make, you put your name on it.”

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That ballot question regarding the city flag? The one that generated 288 design submissions, pared down to four finalists put before residents for a vote — with over 17,000 ballots cast in favor of keeping the current design?

City Clerk Matt Normand said putting images of the four finalists in color on city ballots added $5,309.20 in additional production costs. Normand said he has been assured a consortium including the NH Art Institute, Manchester Chamber of Commerce, the Manchester Historic Association and the Manchester Art Commission have been busy raising funds to cover these costs associated with the ballot initiative.

As of Thursday, Normand said he had received a payment of $1,000, and anticipated the cost of printing the color images would be paid in full by this week.

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There will be several new faces on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen come January, but the current board remains on the job through December.

The Aldermanic Committee on Community Improvement heard a request last week from Mindy Cambiar, executive director of Hundred Nights — a cold-weather homeless shelter and year-round resource center in Keene — seeking financial help for providing services to Queen City residents.

According to Cambiar, three people with IDs showing residency in Manchester received 129 nights in beds at the shelter in 2016, and five Manchester residents visited the resource center 189 times.

“Our cost for providing one bed-night of shelter to one person is $28.71, if we divide our shelter budget by the total number of bed-nights provided, therefore 129 bed-nights of shelter cost us $3,703.59,” writes Cambiar. “If we were to divide the shelter budget by the number of people served, the cost per person equals $598.42, therefore 3 people cost us $1,795.26. At the Resource Center, dividing the RC budget by the total number of people served, our cost per person was $159.83, therefore 5 people cost us $799.15.”

Cambiar is asking the city to pay Hundred Nights $2,500 “to help defray the cost for services provided in 2016 to people with Manchester ID.”

“We are asking for this help at this time as the number of people served has “exploded”, over the last year, at the same time as a large increase in our rent,” writes Cambiar.

In the most recent Safe Station update issued by city EMS Officer Chris Hickey, 11 Keene residents have ventured to the Queen City in 2017 to receive help for addiction at local firehouses.

One Keene resident took part in the program in 2016.

As far as city officials can tell, no bill for those services has been sent to the Elm City.

Committee members voted to receive and file the request.

“We have a bill we could send them,” said Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann.

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Hirschmann was involved in one of the more interesting contests in the Nov. 7 municipal election, as his bid for a sixth term as alderman in Ward 12 put him up against a 20-year-old refugee from Kuwait who serves in the New Hampshire Air National Guard.

Hassan Essa, a student at UNH-Manchester and graduate of Manchester High School West, lost to Hirschmann by 67 votes, 863 to 796.

“The victory goes to the voters that have trusted me over and over to provide a safer city by supporting our police force needs, making our police department second to none,” said Hirschmann. “My budget experience to vet out waste and deliver efficiency, such as our pilot trash program which has made our ward cleaner and cut workers’ comp claims. I also look forward to delivering government without going over the tax cap.”

Hassan said he enjoyed the campaign experience.

“To be taken so seriously as a young person is not easy,” said Essa. “Regardless, a large amount of Ward 12 voters believed in my vision, work ethic and ambition. I absolutely love this city and I loved getting to know so many of my neighbors. I got to hear about the issues from the people who live here. I want to be part of the solution that acts to address the concerns of citizens and to make government more accessible. I will look for ways to make this happen in the immediate future.”

Hassan said he appreciates everyone around the city who has encouraged him to run again.

“Right now, I am focused on completing my studies at UNH Manchester, continuing to serve in the New Hampshire Air National Guard, and doing everything I can to improve the city I grew up in,” said Essa.

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One final election-related item — last week this space mentioned the effort put in by city resident Liam Colby, 20, of Ward 2 to cast a ballot, traveling down from his Plymouth State University dorm room after his last class, and then back to school.

In fact, this space wrote he may have traveled the farthest among all who cast ballots that day in the Queen City.

That drew a response from Laverne MacInnis, also from Ward 2, who said she forgot to send in her absentee ballot and found herself at a summer home on Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada’s smallest province, during election week.

“I have voted in every election since becoming a U.S. citizen, and wasn’t about to break my record on this one,” said MacInnis.

So MacInnis said she hopped in her car, left PEI on Monday afternoon, hit “hellacious” rain in New Brunswick, stayed overnight, and arrived in Manchester at 6 p.m. Tuesday — one hour before the polls closed.

“I even mentioned to some of the workers there I’d just arrived from Canada in time to vote,” said MacInnis.

We stand corrected, Laverne. It’s hard to imagine anyone had a longer trip to the polls Nov. 7 than you did.

Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at pfeely@unionleader.com.


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