The number of sworn police officers in Manchester will increase in the months ahead after city aldermen voted last week to approve the hiring of 10 additional officers.

The decision comes on the heels of an August vote to authorize the hiring of five officers above the approved complement of 237 sworn patrolmen, in response to an uptick in violent crime in the Queen City, rising overtime costs and double shifts.

“Back in Aug., we worked to authorize the MPD to hire 5 officers above their approved complement,” Mayor Joyce Craig said in a statement. “With the vote last (week), our city is ensuring we will have even more officers on the streets.”

Police officials said last week their long-term plan calls for increasing the number of sworn personnel in the department by an additional 30 officers, 10 per year for three years, at a cost of $999,124 per year. That number represents salary, benefits and equipment.

Over the last three years, the Manchester Police Department has reported an average police complement lower than the approved number, primarily due to vacancies as a result of retirements, health-related leave and military leave.

“We have vacancies, we have people that take vacation days, we have people that are on their normal days off, which creates openings in the police department,” Manchester Police Chief Carlo Capano told aldermen last week. “By increasing the complement of the police department, it allows me to put more officers out there. I’m looking at a three-year plan that allows the city to project out and add that cost to the police department’s budget.”

“Ten for the first year is a great start,” Capano said. “Obviously not going to solve all our problems but 10 is a great start to move forward and start this three-year plan.”

Capano said his department plans to hire the 10 additional officers sometime in January.

“This would be something I would be looking to move on immediately,” Capano said. “It’s overdue, frankly. We are stretched thin right now and we are doing everything we can do to protect this community, but we are stretched thin right now.”

“This request is probably the top need in the city from all the departments,” said Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann, who made the motion to approve additional hirings. “Getting these officers is a priority. The tax cap budget next year would be another $3 million increase; this is well within what we can do.”

“All these motions are nice, but it’s going to come down to backing it up when the budget vote comes,” At-Large Alderman Dan O’Neil said. “We can say we want to put 50 officers on the job, but if we don’t back it up at budget time, this is all for nothing. I’ll back it up, if I’m still here.”

Representatives from “The Factory on Willow” went before city aldermen last week seeking approval for several items associated with the project. The proposal calls for the conversion of a mill building at 252 Willow St. into a mixed-use development with commercial space on the first floor and basement, and residential multi-family and artist lofts on the upper floors.

The project proposes converting Willow Street from two one-way lanes to one lane with additional parallel parking and a bike lane between Valley and Pine streets.

The developer is also looking to construct a crossing to allow pedestrian and bicycle traffic to cross the former railroad right of way out to Calef Road or, potentially, another property on the west side of the railroad right of way. The applicant is working with multiple abutters on potential crossings, but has yet to come to an agreement on specific locations.

“The traffic volumes in that area really don’t warrant having two lanes,” said Brian A. Pratt, a senior project manager with Fuss & O’Neill. “Reducing to one lane will help with traffic calming in that area. It seems to be a win-win situation for everyone.”

Aldermen approved the requests on a voice vote.

Mark Gomez has been named the city’s new Chief of Parks, Recreation and Cemeteries, taking the reins from longtime department head Don Pinard, who retired Aug. 30.

Gomez has over 17 years of management-level experience within public works. He has overseen a large-scale volunteer stewardship program for parks, trails, medians and water bodies; spearheaded the acquisition and conversion of contaminated lands to parks and trails; and managed job-training programs for youth.

He most recently served as the environmental programs manager for the city and oversaw the automated trash pickup program.

Casey Shiepe, an Eagle Scout candidate, has completed his service project at Rock Rimmon Park.

Shiepe built a 40-foot section of boardwalk with help from other scouts and four adults. The boardwalk was placed at the top of Rock Rimmon, which required lugging a large quantity of lumber, concrete and other supplies to the summit before construction could start.

Officials expect the boardwalk will allow hikers to cross a wet area on the trail.

Remember that “non-meeting” meeting between Manchester Proud and the school board that was scheduled for a few weeks back, but was canceled just hours before it was set to begin, after several board members said they would skip the session over transparency concerns?

Manchester Proud has rescheduled the session for Oct. 16, when organizers are expected to present a progress report to the Board of School Committee. The meeting will be held at French Hall at the New Hampshire Institute of Art from 5:30 to 9 p.m. The public is invited.

The presentation will include a detailed account of the group’s work to date.

Renovations at City Hall are scheduled to begin later this month, leading to the temporary relocation of several departments.

Departments in the west wing of City Hall will relocate, though phone numbers for each department will remain the same.

On Friday, Oct. 18, the Planning and Community Development Department will be closed before reopening on Monday, Oct. 21, at 195 McGregor St., Unit 201.

The City Solicitor’s office, the Human Resources Department and the Assessor’s Office will be closed on Friday, Oct. 25, and reopen Monday, Oct. 28, at 195 McGregor St., Unit 201.

On Friday, Nov. 15, the Tax Collector’s Office and the Ordinance Violations Bureau will be closed; they will reopen Monday, Nov. 18, at 1000 Elm St., Suite 10.

City officials anticipate all departments will return to the west wing of City Hall sometime in spring 2020.

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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