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Paul Feely's City Hall: Zoning Board alternate feels he was passed over by Mayor

By PAUL FEELY
March 24. 2018 5:42PM
Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE PHOTO)



Anyone who caught last week's meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen witnessed a few moments of "alternate reality" - and a classic primer on Queen City politics.

Normally, when the mayor brings nominations to fill vacancies on local boards, aldermen give their blessing without batting an eye. But last week, a majority of the board pushed back against Mayor Joyce Craig's request that Matthew Sink, a former city deputy director of planning, replace Allen Hendershot as a full member of the zoning board - passing over alternate Jim Roy for the position in the process.

Several aldermen backed the time-honored tradition of filling vacant appointed positions on local government boards with individuals serving as alternates on those governing bodies.

Sink worked in the city's planning department from 1984 to 1997 as a plans examiner, then from 1997 to 2015 as the department's deputy director. Roy is a retired fire captain who served as Ward 4 alderman for eight years before deciding not to seek reelection in 2015. He also served on the Planning Board for 10 years and has served as an alternate on the Zoning Board for six months.

"I've attended those meetings," said Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann. "The senior alternate has done an excellent job."

"You did what you think is in your best interest," said Ward 7 Alderman Bill Shea. "I understand that."

"I'm not doing this for my interests," said Craig. "I'm doing this for the best interests of the city. What I did was nominate the best applicant I saw. I couldn't have asked for a better qualified person to sit on that board."

"This is not without precedent for an alderman to disagree with a mayor's nomination," said Shea. "I consider this a matter of who, in my opinion, should be the best person serving on a board."

"I tried to look at (Roy's) experience as well," said Craig. "This board approved Jim Roy without seeing his resume. There's no resume on file. I think we really need to think about what's best for the city, and not nominating friends of the board. I really implore you to do that."

Board members said they weren't calling into question the qualifications of either Sink or Roy, but several raised the possibility of poor morale on boards if alternates weren't given consideration when full positions open up.

No aldermen offered direct support for Craig's nominee, with the mayor eventually pulling back her nomination of Sink.

After the meeting, Roy expressed displeasure with how the process played out.

"We'll see what happens in the future," said Roy. "Several of the members of the board voiced their displeasure with an alternate being jumped for a position. We can't get enough people to volunteer, and the reality is stuff like this isn't going to make people want to volunteer. They're gonna sit there, they're gonna put their time in and due diligence, then get jumped over for political reasons. It's unfortunate."

"When I ran for mayor, I promised to nominate the most experienced candidates for our volunteer boards and commissions, and that's just what I did with this nomination to the Zoning Board," Craig said following the meeting. "There's not a person in the city with more experience on zoning issues than Mr. Sink, and I'm disappointed that the Board of Aldermen objected to this nomination in favor of a former alderman."

Craig also wanted to clarify that Sink expressed interest in serving on the zoning board to her office, and wasn't sought out, as some aldermen stated during the meeting.

Alderman-at-Large Dan O'Neil and Ward 10 Alderman Bill Barry said they were surprised that "someone" was calling aldermen over the weekend, asking them to oppose the nomination.

Roy said last week that "someone" was him.

"When I called up some of the people on the board they didn't know I was being jumped," Roy said.

He said he realizes Craig can nominate Sink again if she wants, and he could be approved.

"If she gets eight votes, then it will happen," said Roy. "If she doesn't, it doesn't. I'll still be an alternate, still participating."

Roy said he already is considering running for the Ward 4 alderman seat in 2019.

On Friday, Sink said while he was unable to attend last week's meeting - and missed the controversy his nomination sparked - he is familiar with the tradition of elevating alternates to full board positions as they open up.

He said he would be happy to serve as an alternate, if asked.

"The reaction of the BMA was not a surprise," Sink said. "Overarching all of that is the fact that I consider Jim Roy a friend and so, in light of all the controversy, I have asked for my name to be removed from consideration."

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The Dyn sign is on borrowed time.

Bill Binnie's Carlisle Capital Corporation, owner of the building the landmark sign sits atop at 150 Dow St., received permission from the Heritage Commission last week to replace it with new 'Oracle' signage.

The new sign will be an internally illuminated LED sign, standing approximately eight feet high and 64 1/2 feet wide, according to information provided to commission members by First Sign.

Oracle announced in November of 2016 it was acquiring the Manchester-based internet infrastructure company Dyn, a month after it was targeted in multiple cyberattacks.

No timetable was given for when the sign switchout will be completed.

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During last week's Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce "State of the City" breakfast forum, Craig announced the launch of a new initiative to create a more business-friendly environment in the city. The Manchester Business Council will consist of city officials, municipal staff and business leaders.

"We will address issues like the need for expanded parking options in our downtown and how to support statewide efforts that will benefit Manchester," she said.

"The council will also facilitate communications and collaboration among the many city departments, nonprofit groups, and stakeholders involved in economic development, community planning and visioning, and marketing," said GMCC President & CEO Mike Skelton, who will co-chair the council. "This enhanced collaboration will ensure that the strategies undertaken by various stakeholders are coordinated and aligned with one another and efforts and resources are not being duplicated."

Initial focus areas of the council will include:

. Identifying opportunities to streamline regulations and promote a predictable, efficient, and flexible regulatory system;

. Developing new resources that explain the processes for starting a business in Manchester and/or obtaining permits and regulatory approvals;

. Coordinating various economic development and marketing strategies being explored by various community stakeholders;

. Providing a forum for open communication and collaborative dialogue between elected city officials, department heads, and business leaders.

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It took another non-public session to get the deal done, but aldermen emerged from behind closed doors late last Tuesday and voted to approve a new labor contract between Manchester Water Works and United Steelworkers 8938.

The new agreement shows a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase of 1 percent in FY 2018, with no retroactive pay. According to a cost analysis by the city's finance department, the deal will cost an additional $55,770 in salaries and benefits in FY 2018, while tacking on an additional $6,011 in standby pay and $2,213 in additional night-shift differential pay.

In all, the contract results in $68,831 in additional costs for the remainder of FY 2018, which runs through June 30.

The contract includes changes to standby pay, as well as vacation accrual policies. Accrual for two calendar weeks of vacation time would begin on the date of hire, with accrual of three calendar weeks beginning at six years of continuous service.

Four calendar weeks would begin after 10 years of continuous service, five weeks after 15 years, and six weeks after 20 years.

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Lastly this week, a reminder that Craig will unveil her FY 2019 municipal budget proposal - the first budget address of her term in office - on Wednesday, March 28, at 6 p.m. in the aldermanic chambers at City Hall.

Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at pfeely@unionleader.com.


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