CITY OFFICIALS APPEAR close to approving an ordinance prohibiting a needle exchange program in Veteran’s Park that has been a thorn in their sides for months.

The city previously asked the state to hold off disbursing $770,000 in funding for the New Hampshire Harm Reduction Coalition to provide syringe service programs in Manchester.

On Aug. 26, the Executive Council approved the funding for syringe programs in Nashua, Keene, Concord, the Seacoast region and the Queen City over a two-year period.

Syringe Services Programs (SSPs), also known as syringe exchange, needle exchange and needle-syringe programs, provide free access to sterile needles and syringes. Legislation passed in June 2017 allows syringe service programs to operate in New Hampshire and decriminalizes used syringes containing residual amounts of controlled substances.

Manchester health director Anna Thomas has repeatedly has conveyed to aldermen the city’s concerns with the funding, including a lack of collaboration by the local program with city officials, little to no education on available services, and improper collection and disposal of syringes.

According to city officials, the NH Harm Reduction Coalition agreed to stop the program in April 2019, but needle exchange services have continued every Sunday between 2 and 4 p.m. in Veteran’s Park.

Last week, the Aldermanic Committee on Public Safety, Health & Traffic reviewed a proposed ordinance that would ban from city parks any syringe service programs, needle exchange programs or similar programs related to the exchange of devices used for injecting drugs.

The proposed ordinance was submitted by Mayor Joyce Craig.

“It is not meant to show opposition to evidence-based syringe services, but instead to ensure our city parks are available for the intended purpose of intergenerational recreational use, especially in Veteran’s Park,” wrote Craig in a memo to aldermen. “Veteran’s Park was established as a place to remember and honor the men and women who served and in some cases sacrificed their lives, for our freedoms.”

The ordinance was approved by unanimous vote of the committee and will go to the full board for consideration on Jan. 19.

City health officials told aldermen last week they are working on a comprehensive “Harm Reduction Strategy” for Manchester, designed to provide a road map to aid those struggling with addiction while preventing “harm to the larger community.”

‘Takeout’ spaces coming

Coming soon to downtown Manchester — “30-minute takeout only” parking spaces.

The city recently conducted a survey to gauge support for adding one or two 15-minute parking spaces per block downtown for curbside service and takeout orders. Responses to the survey were compiled by the mayor’s office and Intown Manchester.

In favor of adding the temporary 15-minute parking (as reported by the mayor’s office) were:

• The Gyro Spot, Alex Lambroulis: “The extra 15 min parking spaces would be great. We have a lot of deliveries and pick up orders so it would be very helpful to have those designated spaces in front of our store to encourage the pick-up and curbside pick-ups.”

• Millyard Studios, Jodi Ramos: “I love this idea and think it would be helpful for the restaurants and I’m in support of that. If they are not specific to restaurants, it actually would help my clients who need to pop in to pick up artwork orders, but I’m still in support of anything that helps our downtown community. I think it’s a great idea and thanks for asking the downtown businesses.”

• Copy Express, Brian Heffron Jr.: “Here at Copy Express we would benefit greatly from 15 minute parking spaces. We agree with the fact that the many restaurants nearby us that have now switched to curbside pick-up would also benefit.”

• Also in favor: Republic of Campo, Peter Macone; Spradling Group, Scott Spradling; Orbit Group, Liz Hitchcock; Angela’s/Bookery Manchester, Steve Freeman; and Café La Reine, Alex Horton.

Opposed to temporary 15-minute parking (as reported by Intown Manchester) were:

• Ben and Jerry’s

• Beacon Building, Brian Lawrence

• Dancing Lion Chocolate, Richard Tango-Lowy

• 866 Elm, Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur

• The Shaskeen, Jim Pliakos

• Torched, Pat Mills

• With Heart and Hand, Kathy Hamel

City aldermen increased the time allotment from 15 minutes to 30 minutes before approving the change last week on the reasoning that 15 minutes might not be enough time for people to park and pick up takeout items.

Ward 6 filing to end

The filing period for a special election for a vacant seat on the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in Ward 6 ends on Friday.

A special election for the seat has been scheduled for Tuesday, March 2, at the Henry J. McLaughlin Middle School. The term runs out Jan. 4, 2022.

As of late last week only one candidate — Sebastian Sharonov of Nectaria Way — had filed.

The city clerk’s office is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

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

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