Ted Siefer's City Hall: With Gatsas back, aldermen increase fees, tighten exemptions
"The fact that you're here four weeks later ... I know we make your blood pump pretty well," Levasseur said - a sentiment that probably applies best to himself.
Gatsas is not one for sentimentality, but he took the moment to express his gratitude.
"First, let me say thank you to the board for your work over the last four weeks, and to ChairmanO'Neil for stepping up, and the department heads for stepping up," he said before turning to the care he received at Catholic Medical Center. "I can't say enough good things about that hospital. I know people tell you 'Go down to Boston.' I can tell you the care I received was second to none."
Tuesday's meeting was a long one, partly because the aldermen took the unusual step of immediately going into a lengthy nonpublic session. The purpose was to get the latest on discussions with Public Service of New Hampshire over the rate it wants to charge municipalities that use efficient LED streetlights.
You may recall that late last year the aldermen hurriedly authorized spending up to $25,000 to hire a lawyer after city officials learned that state regulators were prepared to rule on PSNH's proposed rate, which they felt would shortchange the city.
Gatsas said he couldn't go into detail on what was discussed during the closed-door session, but he said he hoped that the parties could reach an agreement soon.
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It doesn't seem likely that pay-as-you-throw will be coming to Manchester anytime soon, and it remains to be seen whether the aldermen will manage to finally approve new parking regulations that could net up to $500,000 in new revenue. But the board has steadily given its stamp of approval to new and higher fees that will affect particular constituencies, if not the general population.
"There are 600 people in Manchester getting the disability exemption. In the rest of the state, there's about 500. Something must be going on in Manchester. Obviously, it's not the water, but they're all moving to Manchester," he said.
"On behalf of those who are disabled, we have the three best medical facilities in the state. Disabled people tend to congregate where they get health care," Hirschmann said. "I just want to go on record saying the disabled people I know, they're disabled, and they deserve this."
The aldermen's Human Resources Committee has given the green light to a proposal from Mayor Gatsas to eliminate an ordinance that requires supervisors to make more than their underlings.
"A person taking a supervising position should be happy with a 10 percent increase. (Their) pay shouldn't have anything to do with who the people being supervised are," Gatsas told the committee on Monday.
Human Resources Director Jane Gile said it's not frequent, but it does happen.
"I can't give a number off the top of my head. I'd say a handful of times," she said. Of course, Gatsas knows what it's like to be a supervisor and get paid less than his charges. At $68,000 a year, Gatsas makes less than nearly all of his department heads as well as a good number of rank-and-file workers.
It appears a plan to hand over the operation of the city's West Side Ice Arena to local business partners won't slide into place as quickly as it appeared a couple of weeks ago. The plan was supposed to have been back before the aldermen on Tuesday, after a review by city officials.
Ted Siefer is the City Hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He may be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @tbsreporter.
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