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Paul Feely's City Hall: Shuttering fire station gives rise to cries of playing politics

By PAUL FEELY
July 01. 2017 9:45PM

Shaw 

REACTION TO LAST week's decision by Fire Chief Dan Goonan to close Station 9 on Calef Road due to budgetary concerns fell largely into two categories - outrage over the idea of shuttering a firehouse, and accusations that the proposal had more to do with politics than a lack of funding.

Calef Road, of course, is located in Ward 9 - represented on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen by Barbara Shaw, who last month voted against a fact finder's report recommending two-year pay increases of 3 percent per year for Manchester firefighters and supervisors.

Shaw is being opposed in this year's municipal election by former Fire Chief James Burkush.

Last week, Shaw said she "hates" to think politics played any part in the decision to close Station 9.

"I hesitate to say that," said Shaw. "I hope that this sudden attack ... I hope there's no political motivation here in this situation. This is affecting taxpayers. This is affecting my ward, which I have sworn to represent and protect."

When questioned, Goonan said politics never factored into the equation. He likes Shaw, whose husband was a good friend of his late father. Both were Manchester police officers, he said.

"She baby-sat me," he said.

No surprise here, but members of the Manchester Professional Fire Fighters Association and the Manchester Association of Fire Supervisors have voted to accept the aforementioned fact finder's report on pay increases.

Fire supervisors voted 7-0 to approve the report, while rank and file firefighters voted 197-3 to approve it, with 9 abstentions.

Last month city aldermen voted to approved the report, 7-6. Mayor Ted Gatsas blocked the vote with a veto, saying the two-year price tag of the recommendations made in the report - totaling more than $4 million - would lead to future job losses.

The unions and the city must now agree on a new mediator and continue negotiations, according to a spokesman.

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Efforts by school officials to seek a Realtor to assess the McGregor Street property where the district office is located - in preparation of putting the property up for sale once the Central Office relocates to Manchester High School West - have been put on hold after Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas received word the district doesn't have the authority to sell the building.

According to Vargas, the city is responsible for selling the property - and would receive any profit from the sale.

Vargas told school board members last week that once the school district vacates the property and "hands over the keys," the city has ownership of the property and is responsible for selling it, debt payments and any other fees associated with the property.

School officials have yet to determine an exact date for their departure from the site.

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The filing period for the city's 2017 municipal election doesn't open until July 10, but several more individuals have declared during the past week their intention to run for office.

Betsi DeVries, a retired firefighter and former alderman, state senator and representative, has announced her candidacy for alderman in Ward 8, the seat currently occupied by Tom Katsiantonis. Katsiantonis - indicted June 21 on four counts of tax evasion, four counts of theft, one count of falsifying physical evidence and one count of conspiracy to commit tax evasion - has said he won't run for reelection.

"The people of Ward 8 need a strong voice and I am running to be that voice at City Hall," said DeVries, who previously represented Ward 8 on the board from 2001-2011 until she decided to not seek reelection to spend time with a sick family member.

"The needs of our community are varied and require an alderman that is able to dedicate their time to serving the people of Ward 8," said DeVries. "As an alderman, I built a strong reputation for constituent service and fought for Ward 8's fair share of city projects like our bike/pedestrian trail, which connects our neighborhoods with safer walkways, and updated athletic field improvements at Memorial High School. I look forward to bringing back a focus on neighborhoods and facilities while keeping an eye on the bottom line of budgets."

John Cataldo has also announced a run for the Ward 8 alderman's seat.

"I love the city of Manchester, and I would like to give back to the city that has given me so much by helping it to flourish," said Cataldo in announcing his candidacy on Facebook.

Cataldo, a Trinity High School and St. Anselm College graduate, promises to be a "proactive leader getting out ahead of issues before they affect Manchester residents, and I will work to advance Manchester."

"My commitment to the responsibilities of the job, education of our children, fiscal responsibility, and safety of every individual will be unmatched," said Cataldo. "Most importantly, through my extensive service and leadership background, I have learned always to listen first to those I am serving. By listening to the citizens of Manchester, I will constantly have your best interests at heart, and truly be your representative voice."

Also last week, Brenda Noiseux announced her candidacy for the alderman seat from Ward 7.

"When I first moved to Manchester, the city was in a state of revitalization," said Noiseux. "More than a decade later, we have so much untapped potential. Manchester should be the first city people think of for attracting a talented workforce, families and businesses to New Hampshire, but we need to have the forward thinking to make it happen."

Noiseux wants more people to be engaged in the local government, including more young people, women and people of color. She hopes that by running for alderman, she can provide insight into the process and inspire more people to vote, get to know their aldermen, help out with a campaign, or run for office themselves.

"I am truly grateful that I'm at a point in my personal and professional life where I have the time and energy to serve the people of Manchester as an elected official," said Noiseux.

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Smyth Road Elementary School kindergarten teacher Shauna Webber is one of five finalists for the 2018 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year award.

Webber was recognized by state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut earlier this year during a Teacher of the Year nominee ceremony as a semifinalist for the award. Representatives from the state's Teacher of the Year Committee visited Smyth Road in May to observe Webber in class and conduct interviews with her, her colleagues, students, parents and supervisors. The winner of the 2018 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year won't be announced until September.

Staff reporter Paul Feely covers Manchester City Hall for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Email: pfeely@unionleader.com.


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