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Manchester aldermen to vote on takeover of West Side arena

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 02. 2014 10:50PM

MANCHESTER — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen is set to vote Tuesday evening on a plan to have local business partners take over the operation of the West Side Ice Arena, after a key committee on Monday narrowly voted to endorse the proposal.

The aldermen’s Land and Buildings Committee voted 3-2 to back an agreement with West Side Renaissance Park Inc., despite concerns raised about the background of the partners and their financial arrangement with the city.

Under the proposal, Renaissance would partner with the Manchester Regional Youth Hockey Association (MRYHA), which is the main tenant of the West Side arena and the source of most of its revenue. Renaissance would renovate the facility — building new locker rooms, a pro-shop and concession stand — and be responsible for all operations at the arena, including non-hockey events. The city would still be the legal owner of the property.

The proposal was put forward in April, but underwent further review at the insistence of Mayor Ted Gatsas.

The revised document is similar to the original, but contains collateral provisions in case Renaissance is unable to deliver on its end of the agreement. Renaissance would establish a guaranty account to contain $300,000 by the end of 10 years that would revert to the city in the event of a default. In addition, the city would get to take over the company’s contracts, in particular its 25-year agreement with MRYHA.

The city would fund the renovations through a $1 million bond, with Renaissance paying debt service on the loan, estimated at $105,000 to $115,000 a year.

Under the agreement, the renovations and maintenance of the facility would be handled by Summit Consulting and Management, which is owned by John Hebert, one of three principals of Renaissance. The other voting members of the corporation would be a representative of MRYHA and the city’s Department of Public Works.

Renaissance would also pay the city $25,000 a year for the 25 years of the agreement, with the amount increasing by the rate of inflation each year. The group would also share 5 percent of any revenue over $250,000.

The city would fund the renovations through a $1 million bond, with Renaissance paying debt service on the loan, estimated at $105,000 to $115,000 a year.

Several aldermen at Monday’s meeting raised concerns that Hebert’s construction company stood to benefit from the arrangement. Hebert told the aldermen that he anticipated getting a “management fee.”

“You have every right to get paid for your services,” Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long said. “The issue is you have someone involved with Renaissance, and for that person to take a management fee, the perception for some is that would be inappropriate.”

Ward 1 Alderman Joyce Craig said she wanted to know more about the background of Hebert and his partners.

Hebert’s partners include his brother, Philip; both Heberts are Manchester natives and hockey enthusiasts. John previously ran a construction business in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The other partners include David A. Ross, a former attorney and consultant in Manchester, and John Deachman, an attorney with considerable experience in city hall matters who is serving as the group’s legal counsel.

“You’re asking us approve this without giving us information on who is involved in the project,” Craig said. “You’re asking us to loan you $1 million, and we’re just looking at a plan.”

Hebert said that he had shared his credentials with city officials. He stressed that the venture was key to keeping the West Side arena, which has had ongoing maintenance problems, in operation.

"If Summit is not involved, MRYHA is not involved. And if MRYHA is not involved, it’s very possible that this facility will be closed down. I think the merits of this deal, and the fail-safes in the agreement, speak for itself,” he said. “You have a 25-year future (for youth hockey), as opposed to hockey closing down in Manchester. I think those are the choices here.”

In other action Monday, the committee backed a request from the director of the Manchester Boston Regional Airport to swap a 12-acre parcel of airport land as part of a massive development in Londonderry for a United Parcel Service (UPS) logistics facility.

Both matters are to be voted on Tuesday at the full aldermen's meeting.

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