January 16. 2013 10:53PM

Executive Council OKs pacts for services for refugees' schoolchildren

State House Bureau

CONCORD - Two contracts to provide school-related services to refugee schoolchildren in Manchester and Concord were approved by the Executive Council on Wednesday.

A federal grant pays for the two contracts: one with International Institute of New England, Inc. for $202,000 for the Manchester area, and the other with Lutheran Community Services, Inc. of Concord for $148,000 for the Concord area.

Similar grants were snagged last year in a political fight as Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas convinced a majority of the Executive Councilors to delay contracts for refugee services while he sought a moratorium on resettling refugees in the city and establishing better communication with resettlement agencies and organizations.

Eventually, the council approved the grants.

The grants approved Wednesday were retroactive to September to coincide with the beginning of the school year.

They require the International Institute and Lutheran Services to provide academic and support services for the students and their parents as well as tutoring, scheduling parent-teacher conferences and working with families with school-related problems.

The contract calls for the institute to help about 100 families and Lutheran Services about the same number.

District 4 Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, D-Manchester, wondered why it took five months for the contracts to come to the council.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas said he asked the same question, noting there was some delay due to the agencies but also because his department lacks the staff to work on contracts.

Pappas noted the two agencies stepped up and provided the services although the council had not approved the contracts.

Toumpas said agency contracts always come with the understanding with agencies, and noted that both the institute and Lutheran Services are "substantial," but other agencies the department contracts are not.

The council also approved a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant to help with finalizing the rehabilitation of the former Odd Fellows/Dearborn Building into the Manchester Community Resource Center.

The center will lease space to nonprofit organizations that will provide skills training and work-force development to at least 350 low- to moderate-income people.

The city, United Way and Manchester Community Resource Center are also contributing to the project.

And the council accepted $5 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency for damage due to hurricane Sandy.