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Paul Feely's City Hall: Pitch to aldermen will revisit updating, improving city signs

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader

June 02. 2018 7:57PM




The aldermanic Committee on Public Safety, Health and Traffic will hear a pitch on Tuesday (5:15 p.m., City Hall) for collaboration between the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, city officials and private businesses on a Wayfinding Signage Initiative.

“Historically in the city of Manchester, there has been no planned approach or process to the approval and installation of destination signage,” reads a memo from Jeff Eisenberg, president of EVR advertising and a member of the Chamber’s Downtown Committee Wayfinding Task Force. “This has resulted in an unorganized collection of diverse designs and language with no continuity or visual appeal. The objective of Manchester’s Wayfinding Signage Initiative is to build and implement a plan to improve the signage on display from highways and key entry points into and around the city.”

Key goals of the initiative include: Projecting a modern and positive image of the city; increasing awareness of the city’s major assets; providing effective direction to these locations; fostering a sense of community pride and supporting the city’s economic development.

In 2002 and again in 2007, city officials looked at launching Wayfinding signage initiatives. While the initiatives received support from city aldermen, they were never implemented due to lack of funding.

In his memo, Eisenberg writes recent talks with staff in the city’s planning and public works departments, as well as former Ward 3 alderman Pat Long and the Chamber’s Downtown Committee, makes him believe a new initiative could be feasible if approached as a public/private partnership.

In April, Nashua officials approved $209,000 in funding for the first phase of a sign package designed to direct motorists, visitors and pedestrians to Gate City landmarks, downtown hot spots and public parking. The money will be used to place 78 signs along Main Street and surrounding roadways.

According to information provided to aldermen, the Manchester Wayfinding Signage Initiative is viewed as a citywide project that would be implemented in phases.

Phase I would focus on the downtown and Millyard areas, including key entry points into the city. Future phases to be considered would be the areas of South Elm Street, South Willow Street, the West Side, East Side, North End and Hooksett Road.

To be eligible for display on signage, destinations would qualify under criteria and eligibility categories to be determined at a later date. Current signs that don’t meet the new criteria would be removed.

The initiative would focus on three types of signs:

1. Key Entry Point Signs — prominent signs located along three entry points heading into downtown Manchester: I-293 Exit 5, I-293 Exit 6 and I-93 Exit 8.

2. Directional Signs — smaller signs that lead travelers to physical destinations not easily located.

3. Pedestrian signs — intended to help pedestrians once they leave their vehicles. A preliminary design for the signs incorporates wrought iron and Amoskeag green “to connect with our history while using stainless steel for a slightly modern touch,” according to Eisenberg’s memo to aldermen.

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Results of an internal audit report of the city’s senior services department are in and city auditor Kevin Buckley recommends a few changes to how certain checking accounts are handled.

To understand why the current audit was performed, a brief history lesson is needed. In Fiscal Year 2004, after a resident raised questions about a checking account at the West Side Senior Center, an audit was conducted to determine the status of the account and if expenditures from the account were being used for their intended purpose, That audit concluded the Senior Center did “maintain an account in violation of a city ordinance, lacked any meaningful internal controls, and was not depositing cash on a timely basis,” according to information provided by Buckley.

The 2004 audit determined the account was needed and “should be used for limited purposes,” and reported to the city’s finance department on a regular basis, according to Buckley.

Flash forward to December 2017. Buckley said his office was told the Senior Services Department was currently maintaining two different accounts. The first account was the one audited in 2004, which was closed and reopened in a new bank with a savings account attached used to hold excess funds. A second savings account was being used to hold room rental revenue from the Senior Center.

“Due to the high risk associated with unrecorded cash accounts, an audit was determined to be necessary,” Buckley told members of the Aldermanic Committee on Accounts, Enrollment and Revenue Administration recently.

“I did an audit and everything was fine,” Buckley said. “They are doing a really good job of controlling the spending and the revenue coming in.”

Buckley highlighted three observations in his audit report.

“The first was they were charging room rental for rooms at the Senior Center, which was authorized and an ordinance was passed for them to do that but they were unaware of where to put the money,” Buckley said. “They were putting it in a savings account. As soon as they were made aware by the Finance Department that they were supposed to be depositing it in the City treasury they immediately wrote a check and that observation has been cleared already.”

The second observation involved untimely cash deposits.

“The Finance Department has a policy that everyone is supposed to make deposits daily unless the amount of cash collected is less than $100,” Buckley said. “The Senior Services Department, because they are across town and have to drive the deposit across town, has been depositing much less frequently than that ... It is probably not effective for them to do it daily but they have agreed to do it weekly.”

Buckley said the third item that caught his eye involved an account Senior Services has for money they collect from senior citizens who use the services at the center.

“The money is supposed to go right back to them to pay for the different activities they do,” Buckley said.

He said the idea behind the account was that revenue and expenditures would “pretty much match.”

“That hasn’t been happening,” Buckley said. “They have been collecting more revenue every year than they expend. Now that account is up to $60,000. It should be a lot closer to zero.”

Buckley said Senior Services Director Gail Senno is looking to develop a plan to adjust the way they collect and spend that money so that it will more evenly match.

“They either have to start charging less for the activities, or some of the activities that really have no expenditure match they might not want to charge for,” Buckley said. “They could increase the amount of activities they are paying for out of a fund that directly benefits these seniors that have been going there all along.”

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


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