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August 02. 2014 7:06PM

Ted Siefer's City Hall: Gatsas continues job-consolidation mantra


BOB LaPREE/UNION LEADER Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas delivers his inaugural address at the Palace Theatre Tuesday. (1/5/10) 


 


 

ANOTHER DEPARTMENT head is leaving the city - and once again, Mayor Ted Gatsas sees an opportunity for savings by eliminating the position.

Marty Boldin, the director of the Office of Youth Services, announced last month he'll be leaving to start a fellowship in the fall at Boston University to earn his doctorate degree.

Boldin said it wasn't an easy decision to move on after 10 years at OYS, which runs an array of programs aimed at helping at-risk young people stay off the streets and out of trouble.

"There's been a few tearful meetings," he said. "We develop strong relationships with young people, and sometimes change is hard for them, but I trust the staff of OYS and the community will be able to help them and continue to do so."

Boldin added, "I think the mayor and board of aldermen understand the value of the department and what a critical role it plays ... I wish the next director nothing but the best of luck."

Gatsas said he "wished (Boldin) well," but it's safe to say they're not on the same page as far as the future structure of the agency is concerned.

Gatsas wants to consolidate the office, placing it within the Health Department, which is run by Tim Soucy, the Energizer bunny of department heads.

"I think Tim Soucy would do a great job with it," Gatsas said.

Gatsas added that he believed the essential functions of the department wouldn't change and that any proposed changes would be presented to the aldermen.

Consolidation has been something of a mantra for Gatsas. Last year, he proposed that the economic development chief position be eliminated and the office folded into his own after the abrupt departure of Jay Minkarah. The move was ultimately thwarted by a majority of the aldermen.

Time will tell whether a similar battle emerges over OYS. The debate may provide Gatsas with another opportunity to remind some of the aldermen of their vow to do things differently - in other words, to reduce the cost of city government - after they voted to override the tax cap in June.

It bears noting that Boldin, ever the diplomat, had special praise for Gatsas.

"The mayor has shown over his tenure his profound care and concern for young people," he said. "I know nobody understands more than he does the importance of having a department dedicated to the needs of young people in the city."

Many politicians and elected officials by now have rallied to the side of the employees and managers of Market Basket in their fervent bid to have their beloved boss, Arthur T. Demoulas, return to the helm of the company. It appears city aldermen may soon get in on the action as well.

In a letter forwarded to the board, the group spearheading the revolt, "We Are Market Basket," urged city leaders to contact the company's board of directors and executives to support the return of Demoulas.

Ward 1 Alderman Joyce Craig said she was hopeful the issue would be satisfactorily resolved by the time the board meets this week, but if not, she said, it will be a fitting topic for discussion.

Of course, Market Basket is an institution in New Hampshire, and the stakes are especially high in Manchester.

The downtown store was rightly touted as one of the most significant economic development projects the district had seen in a long while.

Mayor Gatsas, who has pointed to the development of the Market Basket as one of the greatest accomplishments during his tenure, was one of the first leaders to publicly back the return of Arthur T.

Asked whether he was concerned that the continued impasse could imperil the downtown store, Gatsas said: "I don't think a company that does the amount of volume Market Basket does is in any way not going to be able to fix the problem they have before them and stay in business," he said. "I'm sure they will work it out, and I'm sure the employees will be there, and Arthur T."

If you've ever had to deal with the cable company, you might understand why the city is looking to get professional help as it prepares to renegotiate a nearly $2 million contract with Comcast that expires next year.

Comcast pays the city, as it does municipalities across the country, franchise fees to use public rights-of-way to deliver its cables into homes and businesses. Based on a percentage of revenue from customers, the fees largely cover the approximately $500,000 annual budget of Manchester Public Television, and they have funded major equipment purchases in the past.

The fees, which brought in about $1.8 million last year, are also a significant source of revenue for the city's general fund.

At the mayor's urging, the aldermen have set aside funds for a legal expert - likely the same guy the city turned to the last time the Comcast contract was negotiated - to handle the talks with the cable giant.

Some folks among Manchester Public Television's roster of local talent have grumbled about just where all the Comcast money goes.

Gatsas said he anticipated having some form of public hearing on the matter. But step one, he said, is to take "a look at other communities now negotiating with Comcast and what they're receiving."

Ted Siefer is the City Hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. He may be reached at tsiefer@unionleader.com and followed on Twitter @tbsreporter.


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