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Paul Feely's City Hall: Getting hitched at Manchester's City Hall could cost lovers a bit more green

By PAUL FEELY
February 17. 2018 6:58PM

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American rockers The Knack put out a single in 1980 titled "Can't Put a Price On Love." Looks like the folks in the city clerk's office weren't big fans.

That might explain a request before the Aldermanic Committee on Accounts, Enrollment and Revenue Administration last week from Assistant City Clerk Heather Freeman to increase the fee for marriage ceremonies performed at City Hall from $150 to $200.

According to Freeman, the city clerk's office has been performing marriage ceremonies at City Hall since March 2010. The state claims $43 of the $50 license fee - with municipalities taking in just $7 for a process Freeman says can "tie up staff" for between 45 and 60 minutes.

Since March 2010, Freeman says staff have performed just under 3,500 wedding ceremonies at City Hall - including six on Valentine's Day last week.

The city's current $150 wedding package fee includes walk-in service for customers looking to obtain a marriage license ($50), a ceremony performed by a justice of the peace ($85), and a copy of the marriage certificate ($15).

"Weddings at City Hall have been a great success, with people traveling from all over the country to get married here," writes Freeman in a memo. "With that success, the demand on our staff has increased significantly as we now convert nearly 50 percent our of marriage licenses to include a wedding ceremony."

Freeman proposes increasing the marriage ceremony rate to $135, putting the total cost to the customer at $200. She estimates the change would generate approximately $30,000 in new revenue for the general fund.

The aldermanic committee will meet Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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City police went before an aldermanic committee last week to discuss measures being taken to avoid the same type of "March Madness" gridlock seen downtown almost a year ago.

For those who might not remember, over the weekend of March 25-26, 2017 the Queen City played host to: 

. A downtown expo highlighting New Hampshire-made products.

. A half-marathon along Elm and nearby streets.

. A two-day NCAA regional hockey tournament.

As a result, closed streets, full parking lots and traffic gridlock were reported across the city, particularly on Saturday.

"A lot of people were stranded. There were people circling, circling. We didn't have enough parking," Melkem Araya, manager of the 951-car Center of New Hampshire parking garage, told a New Hampshire Union Leader reporter at the time.

In his three years at the garage, Araya said he had never seen downtown like it was that day, calling it "insane."

Last week, Manchester police Lt. Steven Mangone told members of the Aldermanic Committee on Public Safety, Health and Traffic the city hosts over 50 special events every year, the majority for which the police department's traffic unit develops traffic safety plans.

"We would like the opportunity monthly to bring these events to your attention so you could review them," said Mangone. "As you know, no matter how safe we make any special event, the complaints do come in as we do have to impede traffic flow somewhat in order to make things as safe as we can. This is just an opportunity for us to come before this committee with a list of events that are coming up so you can be more informed, because I am sure you get the complaints as well."

Alderman Bill Barry of Ward 10, the committee chairman, asked Mangone if he could see any logjam of events - similar to the weekend last year - on the horizon. This year, the Shamrock half-marathon and relay will be held on March 24, and the Shamrock Shuffle road race on March 25.

"Given that there are over 50 events, they are spread out somewhat so that is not a concern for us," said Mangone. "That particular weekend, from what we understand, the details are a little different than they were last year especially when it comes to the SNHU Arena. It is not an all-day hockey tournament this year - they only have a Monarchs (game) that evening."

"The Shamrock Half Marathon will be held on that Saturday," said Sgt. Christopher Goodnow. "We contacted SNHU and they will have their game later on that evening. The Radisson has an event going on. I spoke to the Radisson last year when this all went down, and the people who had the event were happy we were there because they got more people into that event. We did make some changes with Millennium Running. We are going to start an hour earlier and as far as the north end of the race, we are going to use the Bridge Street Bridge for some mileage. If you want to use Webster Street you will be able to use Union and down Lexington to get around it, which is where people were stuck last year. We have made a few adjustments like that."

Mangone said the city's Information Systems technicians are putting directions on the "Waze" traffic app, and the department will put out messages using the Nixle alert system, along with plans to use highway signs to direct people to using Granite Street and Queen City Avenue to get to the east. 

"Even if 50 percent of the people abide by that, that will cut the traffic flow of people trying to get across Amoskeag to a minimum," said Mangone. "That is a concern we are working on."

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Fundraising for the restoration of the Brig. Gen. Casimir Pulaski Monument at Pulaski Park is underway, and city Parks and Recreation staff say work will begin once the $100,000 needed to fully restore the monument is raised.

The monument was created by local sculptor Lucien-Hippolyte Gosselin, an instructor at the Manchester Institute of Arts & Sciences - now the New Hampshire Institute of Art - and dedicated in a formal ceremony on Aug. 21, 1938.

Years of exposure have damaged the monument. The project is also receiving support from the City of Manchester Heritage Commission.

Donations are being accepted by check, made payable to the "City of Manchester." Just write "Pulaski Monument Project" in the memo line.

A Pulaski Day celebration in Manchester will be held March 17 from 10-12 p.m. at Holy Trinity Cathedral hall, 166 Pearl St.

City Parks and Recreation staff are prepping for Winterfest 2018, scheduled for Feb. 26-March 3.

Activities are hosted by the Office of Youth Services during February school vacation, and are open to families and children across the city.

Scheduled activities include:

.Public Ice Skating at the JFK Arena, Feb. 26-March 2, 2-4 p.m.

.Free Throw Contest at Beech Street School, March 2, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

.Open Gym, 3-on-3 basketball, sign up at Beech Street School Feb. 26, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

.3-on-3 Basketball Tourney, Beech Street School, Feb. 27-March 1, 11 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

.At the Currier Museum of Art, activities begin on Monday, Feb. 26 with a joint Currier and Manchester City Library event geared to ages 3 to 5, reading Duck for President, and then creating campaign signs.

On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, family activities include Creative Studio for Build Your Own Sculpture Park and Monument Building on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.

Drawing in the Galleries is scheduled to be held on Thursday.

There will be free admission for those 17 and younger and $5 for adults.

A full schedule of events can be found at www.manchesternh.gov/Departments/Youth-Services.

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


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