Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays.

Unless, of course, your home reeks of manure.

Guy and Linda Couture, residents of 772 So. Mammoth Road, went before city aldermen last week, looking for relief from the “horrific smell” surrounding their home and the homes of several neighbors for more than two weeks. They claim the awful odor stems from manure spread earlier this month on frozen ground on nearby farmland at 661 So. Mammoth Rd. The Coutures have lived in their home for 15 years.

“In 14 years I have not seen this empty field worked as a farm,” writes Linda Couture in an email to city aldermen.

“This sickening smell began on Friday, Dec. 7, and continues strong as ever,” Guy Couture told board members. “Much to our dismay, this foul smell is now entering into our homes and there is no end in sight.”

Guy Couture said he and others in his neighborhood avoid catching a whiff of the stench at all costs.

To paraphrase the lyrics of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” — composed by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel — the three words that best describe the situation might just be “Stink, stank, stunk!”

“It is very difficult to put into words just how horrible it feels to not want to go outside to do simple things like getting the mail, putting out the trash or putting up Christmas decorations, knowing that the poor air quality and disgusting smell will come into our homes,” Guy said. “Imagine not wanting to come home from work for fear the stench of manure is still everywhere.”

Couture said the situation is worse for people with respiratory issues like his wife, who suffers from asthma.

“This has been a very difficult 12-day period for her due to the debilitating air quality,” Guy said.

The Coutures told board members they contacted agriculture staff at UNH Cooperative Extension and were told the stench will take at least three weeks to subside.

“No one should have the right to make a taxpayer uncomfortable in their home,” Linda Couture wrote in her email to board members. “No one should have the right to jeopardize their health. The manure needs to be covered now.”

Ward 8 Alderman John Cataldo said the Coutures aren’t the only residents of the area turning up their noses this Christmas.

“I have received several phone calls and emails about the issue,” Cataldo said. “The residents are very reasonable, they understand that this farm existed before their neighborhood did. However, this year in particular ... this time the smell has persisted. It was spread when the ground was frozen and we also haven’t had snow to cover it.”

Cataldo said he has researched potential solutions and found some states in New England and the Midwest have ordinances prohibiting the spread of manure on frozen ground, or after a certain time of the year.

New Hampshire has no such ordinances, but Cataldo said the state’s Department of Agriculture has a best practices manual that covers manure management, saying it is not advisable to spread manure on frozen ground.

Aldermen voted to authorize Cataldo to work with city staff to look at the issue and develop a proposal to prevent similar conditions in the future.

“I spoke with the farmer and he wants to be accommodating to the neighbors,” Cataldo said. “We need to determine a way to avoid this issue in the future. If I was living there and my wife was suffering, I would also feel strongly about it.”

The NH Department of Education (DOE) last week released the latest per pupil expenditures for each district in the state, covering the 2017-18 school year. According to the DOE, the average expenditure is $15,865.26 per student, with the Manchester school district spending $12,024.43 per student, $3,840.83 less than the state average.

“The sad reality for us is that we are asked to educate our students, many of whom are the most vulnerable in our state, with an insufficient amount of resources to meet their academic, social, emotional and physical needs,” Supt. of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas wrote in a memo to school board members late last week, notifying them of the DOE figures.

In the memo, Vargas points out the district would need to add $52,427,329 to its budget “just to catch up” with the state average.

“Even if we strive to catch up to Nashua, one of the lowest spending per pupil (districts) in the state, we would need to add $15,045,303 to our budget,” Vargas wrote. Nashua spends $13,126.65 per pupil, according to DOE figures.

Vargas wrote that last year he requested an additional $2 million above the tax cap and was given $1.25 million by city aldermen. According to Vargas, the $750,000 gap “prevented several initiatives, including putting in place a math curriculum, math textbook adoption for middle school and adding math teachers to meet the goal of increasing the number of students who complete Algebra I by the end of 8(th)” grade, and adding world language teachers (French) at the middle school level.

Vargas writes that while $52 million in additional funding from either the city or the state is an unreasonable request, he suggests one goal school board members could adopt is to “catch up” to Nashua’s per pupil expenditures.

“We are in urgent need of at least these types of investments to address critical areas, such as curriculum development, textbook adoption, technology, class size, and adding more mental health support to meet the increasing needs of our students and families,” Vargas wrote. “Every day that goes by we are shortchanging our students, not from lack of effort or talent, but from lack of the tools our teachers and staff need to do the difficult job we ask them to do each day.”

“I have often said that the Manchester school district does more with less than any district in the state, and likely in New England,” Vargas added. “This may be efficient but it is not effective in the long run, and it is time for each one of us to take action that addresses this challenge.”

Officials from Trinity High School went before the aldermen last week to discuss a proposed partnership with the city on a new, lighted synthetic turf field.

As Trinity Principal Steve Gadecki points out in a letter to board members, the school has used city-owned fields for all of its outdoor sports for many years, predominantly the Al Lemire baseball field and Derryfield Park softball fields abutting Reservoir Avenue and Circular Drive.

In 2009, Trinity partnered with the city to renovate the outfield at Al Lemire Field, which was heavily damaged. As part of that 2009 agreement, Trinity contributed $40,000 of the $80,000 renovation costs and has been paying $5,000 annually for maintenance in exchange for priority use of Lemire and the other Derryfield Park fields.

As Gadecki points out in his letter, the fields at Derryfield Park are natural grass and are often unavailable until early spring after the snow melts. Neither the baseball field nor the softball field has lights.

Under the new proposal, Trinity hopes to enter into a long-term arrangement with the city allowing the school to replace the area encompassing the two softball fields adjacent to the tennis courts at Derryfield Park with synthetic turf, while also installing lights on the fields to extend use of the site after nightfall.

Gadecki pegs the preliminary estimate on the field and lights between $2 million and $2.5 million, and mentions the field could be used for football, soccer, lacrosse and softball, “not only by Trinity” but also other city and community organizations when not being used by the school.

“Trinity envisions ultimately building permanent bleachers, concession stands and locker rooms,” creating another “multi-sport athletic venue for the city” in the process, Gadecki added.

Gadecki said that if an agreement can be reached with the city before Jan. 31, 2019, he is hopeful the field could be built and available for use late next year.

Aldermen voted last week to direct staff to work with Trinity administrators to develop a comprehensive agreement and bring it before the board for consideration.

The city is also moving ahead with plans to improve Gill Stadium.

A Request for Qualifications has been issued for construction services for the rehabilitation of Gill, including the removal of the existing synthetic turf and infill as well as the installation of a new synthetic turf, shock pad, infill and construction work.

Details are available on the city website at www.manchesternh.gov. Proposals are due by 2 p.m. on Jan. 2.

Congressman-Elect Chris Pappas, D-NH, has asked to rent space in Manchester High School Central — his alma mater — to host his local swearing in ceremony on Saturday, Jan. 5.

The 11:30 a.m. event at Classical Hall is open to the public; the New Hampshire Food Bank’s Recipe for Success program will cater. Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig will administer the oath. Pappas’ official swearing-in is at the Capitol Building in Washington on Thursday.

City Hall will close Monday at 1 p.m. for the Christmas holiday, and reopen at 8 a.m. on Wed., Dec. 26.

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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