A city alderman has asked her colleagues to send a letter to the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance expressing support for Manchester VA Medical Center’s expansion project, including the demolition of a structure on the state’s Seven to Save list released last month by historic preservationists.
The New Hampshire Preservation Alliance said the 2,000-square-foot manager’s residence at the VA Medical Center remains intact and is an example of the Prairie style of architecture that originated in Chicago and is associated with renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The Alliance urged U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs officials to consider alternative uses for the structure, which has been vacant for years.
“Its use for outpatient care or veterans enrichment programs (instead of 10 additional parking spaces) offers a feasible solution in an age when veterans care is at the forefront of many national discussions,” the organization wrote. “Many traditional hospital settings are not conducive for veterans with (post-traumatic stress disorder), for example.”
Earlier this year, the VA endorsed a Vision 2025 plan to upgrade veteran health care in the state. It calls for the Manchester VA to host specialty health care associated with veterans such as mental health, radiology, pain care, addiction treatment and amputation care. Additional clinical space was already being contemplated when the announcement was made.
No date has been set for the demolition of the manager’s residence, Manchester VA spokesman Kristin Pressly told the Union Leader.
“This project demolition, expanded clinical space and enhanced parking are aligned with the veteran feedback solicited by the Vision 2025 Taskforce and is in keeping with the approved recommendations,” Pressly wrote in an email.
For at least a year, preservationists have been trying to convince the VA to keep the manager’s residence intact.
In a letter to Mayor Joyce Craig and fellow board members, Ward 6 Alderman Elizabeth Moreau writes that “placing further restrictions on the Veterans Hospital to expand and provide optimum care for our veteran community is a disservice” to the many veterans the hospital serves.
“The reasoning behind not demolishing the building in question is due to the architecture type, that of a Prairie style, which is not originated from New Hampshire,” Moreau wrote. “Rather, it emerged from Chicago in the 1900s.”
Moreau wrote that while the structure is one of the older residences within the city limits, she “would not place its importance over better serving our veterans.”
“The land would be of better use for the Veterans Hospital as expanded patient care buildings and parking,” Moreau said.
She concludes the letter by asking Craig and the board to send a letter to the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance backing the VA’s planned expansion “without the restriction of keeping the former manager’s residence.”
The Heritage Commission, a city board, has filed paperwork opposing demolition as part of the federal review process of future plans for the VA campus.
“As it became clearer that what was planned was two major construction projects on the campus that would require demolition of two major buildings, we paid very close attention to that,” said Aurore Eaton, a local historian and member of the Manchester Heritage Commission.
Eaton said the Commission has suggested that the VA keep the manager’s residence intact and demolish five other similar historic buildings on the campus, three of them former staff quarters.
“It’s really our job to try and save historical resources,” said Eaton, who also writes the “Looking Back” column that appears Mondays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. “Every time we reviewed the project, over and over again we said the VA needs to do some sort of mitigation, and the mitigation we propose is saving that building.”
Eaton believes the building could be used by nonprofit agencies or as the location for a possible memorial honoring veterans.
“We can’t really pursue these ideas without some sort of promise that the building won’t be demolished,” Eaton said. “The building is not in the way of any construction, and saving the building would not harm expansion of care for veterans.”
“These buildings are important,” Ward 1 Alderman Kevin Cavanaugh said. “Once they are gone, they are gone.”
Aldermen tabled Moreau’s request to allow time for additional discussions between the Heritage Commission and the VA.
School officials have received notification from two unions, the Manchester Certified Instructors and the Association of Manchester Principals, of their intent to open discussions on new contracts for the 2019-20 school year and beyond.
The current negotiations committee, chaired by at-large school board member Rich Girard, will handle talks with both unions.
The Aldermanic Committee on Administration and Information Systems last week approved a request from Fire Chief Dan Goonan to increase by more than $17 the hourly rate charged for fire details requested or required by private or public organizations.
According to Goonan, the department currently charges $48.11 per hour per detail, with a four-hour minimum required. A survey of other departments around the state shows that puts Manchester on the low end in terms of rate charged. Gilford, Salem and Bedford each charge $60 per hour, Londonderry, Tilton and Laconia are at $65, and Concord charges a state-high $77 per hour.
According to Goonan, a fire detail may be required for cutting and welding operations, demolition operations, gatherings where candles are in use “and other purposes where the fire marshal deems it necessary for life safety.” Goonan said events at the SNHU Arena also require fire details to be present.
The new fire detail rate, if approved by the full Board of Mayor and Aldermen later this month, will be $65.80. The committee recommended the request be approved, with only Alderman-at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur opposed.
Manchester Proud, the citizens’ coalition committed to uniting the Queen City behind an aspirational vision for its school system, has planned a series of “listening sessions” at city schools over the next several weeks.
The group has scheduled the sessions in an effort to hear from “students, parents, teachers, and district and support staff on what’s important to them, the challenges and opportunities they see, and their vision for the city and its schools,” according to information provided at the group’s website.
The following listening sessions are scheduled through Dec. 13:
Highland-Goffe’s Falls: Nov. 28, 6-7 p.m.
Bakersville: Nov. 29, 8:30 -9:30 a.m.
Parker-Varney: Dec. 4, 9-10 a.m. and 5-6 p.m.
Northwest: Dec. 5, 9-10 a.m. and 5-6 p.m.
Weston: Dec. 6, 8:30-9:30 a.m. and 6-7 p.m.
Jewett: Dec. 6, 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Beech: Dec.6, 7-8 p.m.
Bakersville: Dec. 10, 5-6 p.m.
Hallsville: Dec. 11, 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 6-7 p.m.
McLaughlin: Dec. 11, 3-4 p.m.
Webster: Dec. 11, 6-7 p.m.
Green Acres: Dec. 12, 9-10 a.m.
Webster: Dec. 12, 1:45-2:45 p.m.
Parkside: Dec. 13, 10-11 a.m. and 6-7 p.m.
Registration for any of these sessions can be done at www.manchesterproud.org.