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March 03. 2012 11:18PM

Prison site, fleet management on aldermen's agenda


 

With the schools out and many city employees — including Mayor Ted Gatsas — on vacation, it was pretty quiet in Manchester last week. This week, the aldermen are back at it with five committee meetings, a public hearing and a regular Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting. Though the agendas look light, there are a few controversial items that could keep the board up late on Tuesday.

The issue most likely to draw a crowd is the proposed prison ordinance set for public hearing at 5:30 p.m. Ward 8 Alderman Tom Katsiantonis has been the most outspoken board member against the plan, which would ban a new prison everywhere in the city except his ward. That includes the private prison proposal on Hackett Hill.

After the public hearing, the ordinance must pass through some other committees before heading to the full board for final approval. Katsiantonis may find a few other aldermen who will join him in opposing the plan, but right now he doesn't have the votes needed to shoot down the ordinance proposal.

Another issue likely to come up again is the fleet management department, or division, depending on what side of the issue the aldermen fall. This subject has already been the subject of two-hour debates between aldermen. At question is whether to create a new city department, or division, and how much directive the aldermen should give the new fleet chief regarding the size and make-up of staff.

Alderman At-Large Dan O'Neil sent a letter to the aldermen urging they work out a plan, but the aldermen may opt to send the issue to committee rather than have another hour-long discussion on it.

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ALSO ON THE agenda are the nine firefighter rehires. Two weeks ago, Gatsas asked the aldermen to approve the rehires after he and Fire Chief James Burkush crunched the numbers and figured out bringing back the laid-off firefighters would save on overtime.

Expect the aldermen to spend more time debating whether they actually have to approve the rehire, rather than whether they should rehire at all. Ward 6 Alderman Garth Corriveau, who proposed bringing back some of the laid-off firefighters at the Feb. 21 meeting, told the New Hampshire Union Leader he believes his motion allows Burkush to bring back as many laid-off firefighters as he sees fit.

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IF YOU'VE BEEN paying attention to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen this session, you may be wondering why the firefighter rehires were brought before the aldermen, debated and passed the same night.

In January, the aldermen voted to refer all new business to committee before discussing it before the full board. Rule proponents Corriveau and Alderman Patrick Arnold said the goal was to properly vet all new ideas. But Gatsas argued the rule would slow down business and persuaded a majority of the board last month to repeal the rule.

The rule's true purpose was to prevent either the mayor or a coalition of aldermen from bringing forward a new proposal at 11 p.m. and hammering it through a fatigued board. It would have also prevented the firefighter rehires from gaining approval last month.

When Gatsas noted the firefighter proposal should go to committee, Arnold reminded Gatsas and the board that rule no longer exists.

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THE ALDERMEN may get details about the progress of the new fire station on Hackett Hill. At the last meeting, “an update on Hackett Hill” was listed near the top of the agenda, but was bumped to a later date by Gatsas before the meeting began. As of last Wednesday, there were no accompanying documents with the presentation, but sources say a deal is being worked out with city attorneys and developer Richard Danais to expedite construction of the much-needed station Danais promised to build when he purchased the Hackett Hill business park from the city.

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CHRIS HERBERT is keeping involved in city politics with a new Manchester Public Television Service show Wednesdays at 9 p.m.

The former Ward 4 school board member and mayoral candidate's show follows the “Will and Joe Show,” hosted by state Rep. Will Infantine and Alderman At-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur. Herbert's guest last week was local businesswoman Jane Beaulieu.

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MANCHESTER DOES St. Patrick's Day like no other city, stretching the slate of breakfasts, corned beef and cabbage dinners and the city's parade into the final week of March.

One tradition that will fall by the wayside this year, however, is the firefighter's annual St. Patrick's Day Dinner. Once hosted by the fire department, the event was known as the Chief's Dinner. A few years ago, the tradition was handed off to the Manchester Professional Fire Fighters Association. Union President Ryan Cashin said the firefighters decided not to host the dinner this year, instead opting to put their funds and efforts toward other things.

“We took over from the department a couple of years ago and it was supposed to be on temporary basis. We're looking at putting our resources toward a couple other charitable things we can do,” said Cashin.

Read Beth LaMontagne Hall's coverage of Manchester City Hall in the New Hampshire Union Leader. Email her at bhall@unionleader.com.


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