Muscle Beach, Manchester-style?

Janet Horvath, the city’s Recreation and Enterprise manager, has informed aldermen that the National Fitness Campaign has contacted Manchester officials about possibly locating one of its Fitness Courts in the Queen City. According to Horvath, the Fitness Court would consist of a workout area measuring 32 feet by 35 feet where adults can use circuit training fitness equipment to complete a series of full-body exercises in seven minutes. The service would be available to all at no cost.

According to Horvath, city officials are looking at installing one in Derryfield Park.

Horvath reports the National Fitness Campaign, a social enterprise dedicated to building fit communities around the world, is offering a $30,000 grant toward the project’s $120,000-$140,000 cost.

“We anticipate raising the other $90,000-$110,000 for the project from private sources,” Horvath wrote in a memo to board members. “Alderman (Will) Stewart and several residents, who heard about this project and brought this to us are on board to solicit donations on behalf of this project.”

If the grant is awarded to Manchester, city officials hope to break ground on the project in spring 2020.

According to promotional materials, the fitness court accommodates a variety of skill levels and abilities at each station, from beginner to expert. Each piece of equipment allows users to leverage their body weight at different angles and levels of resistance as a tool to improve over time. Each exercise would take 45 seconds, with a 15-second break in between sets.

Residents or visitors could walk, drive or bike to the designated area and get in a quick workout at the outdoor fitness station.

There would be no set workouts, though there could be an app available for download to plan and track each workout using the courts.

The app, available for fitness courts in other communities around the country, has how-to videos, the opportunity to personalize workouts, guided circuits and more run by personal trainers.

The fitness court can be customized and have a colorful design made to withstand the weather. The concept of fitness courts began in California in the late 1970s, including the Muscle Beach Gym in Venice Beach.

Visit www.nationalfitnesscampaign.com/fitness-court for a look at what a fitness court could look like.

Assistant Police Chief Ryan Grant is expected to go before the Aldermanic Committee on Human Resources and Insurance on Tuesday with a request for a civilian full-time, salaried, non-affiliated public information officer (PIO).

Lt. Brian O’Keefe is the department’s current PIO, and while Grant and Police Chief Carlo Capano feel he is doing a “great job,” Grant writes in a memo to aldermen that he and the chief feel the position would be better served by a civilian PIO with formal public information education and experience in communications, social media, marketing and media relations.

“With the incredible expansion of social media, compiled with mainstream media’s desire to have information in real time, the requirements have outgrown the abilities of our current public information officer,” Grant wrote in the memo. “We are currently using a police lieutenant with minimal training to handle all press inquiries, press releases, and all of the public outreach for the department during emergency situations. These situations often occur after hours, on weekends and, inevitably, during the most inconvenient times.”

In his memo, Grant writes the position would pay an hourly rate of $25.66, with an annual salary range of $53,372 to $76,082. According to city Human Resources Director Jane Gile, Capano has indicated he has the necessary funds in the police budget to support the position due to unfilled vacancies in the department.

The Aldermanic Committee on Human Resources and Insurance will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Late last week, Mayor Joyce Craig praised a report put out by American Medical Response (AMR) showing the number of opioid overdoses and opioid-related overdose deaths are decreasing in the Queen City.

In 2018, crews from AMR responded to 706 overdose cases in Manchester, a 19 percent drop from a year ago, when there were 877.

The 52 suspected overdose-related fatalities in the Queen City last year were 22 percent lower than the 2017 total, when 67 people died in suspected opioid-related overdoses.

”This is the first time Manchester has seen a decrease in opioid overdoses since this epidemic began,” Craig said. “In the last year, we have worked to develop a new system of care for those seeking help from substance use disorder. I believe strong partnerships and the success of our Safe Station program can directly be attributed to Manchester’s decreasing opioid overdose rate. Unlike Manchester, opioid overdoses across New Hampshire are continuing to rise. There’s still much more we need to do, but this is a positive step in working to eliminate opioid overdoses in our city.”

According to AMR statistics, 1,756 individuals visited a Manchester fire station in 2018 seeking access to treatment for addiction through the Safe Station program.

Since the program began in Manchester in 2016, Safe Station has been used as an access point 4,677 times.

Craig said a new system of care developed in 2018 helped cut the average time it takes to get an individual into treatment through Manchester Safe Station from two to three weeks to two to three days. According to Craig, it now takes an average of nine minutes to get an individual through Manchester’s Safe Station access point.

Dr. Bolgen Vargas stunned the political establishment Friday with his unexpected resignation as Manchester school superintendent. The announcement came days after Vargas confirmed that the school board had offered him a two-year extension.

Vargas said there were “personal and professional” reasons for stepping down after three years but he declined to elaborate.

The resignation notice starts the clock on the last 90 days of Vargas’ tenure.

Craig said she was surprised by Vargas’ decision and would speak with School Board Vice Chairman Arthur Beaudry about the search for Vargas’ replacement and whether the panel needs to name an interim superintendent.

The entire school board’s next meeting is Jan. 14.

It was great to see Ray Wieczorek once again at the podium in the aldermanic chambers last month. Craig invited the former mayor and executive councilor to say a few words in recognition of his 90th birthday.

Wieczorek, a Republican, was mayor of the Queen City from 1990 to 2000 and sat on the Executive Council from 2002-12, when he retired.

“I see a few old hands that were here when I was here,” Wieczorek told those in attendance at the Board off Mayor and Alderman meeting. “(Keith) Hirschmann, Billy Shea, (Dan) O’Neil — he’s been here 50 years. I’m still here. I’m still getting around. I don’t run as fast, but I can still move a little bit. Life has been very, very good to me.”

Wieczorek said he is “very proud of the city of Manchester,” and told Craig he is proud of her.

“This really is a wonderful city, and everybody has made their contribution,” Wieczorek said. “Each of you make your individual contributions, and you being mayor know what you have to do. It’s a day, night, Saturday, Sunday ... whenever they need you, you have to be there. You’re a remarkable person.”

Wieczorek went on to describe what he feels is the “most important thing” he accomplished as mayor.

“This city used to borrow money in anticipation of taxes,” Wieczorek said. “We changed the fiscal year, probably in ‘93, we changed the fiscal year because we used to be in three fiscal years — the calendar year, the federal fiscal year and the city fiscal year.

“When we changed it, we had an 18-month budget that year and we only had two fiscal years,” Wieczorek said. “This city has not borrowed one dime in anticipation of taxes since we did that. That is probably one of the best things that ever happened because the money they were using to pay the interest on the bonds was what we used to pay back the bonds.”

Wieczorek joked that Ward 3 Alderman Tim Baines‘ father, former mayor Bob Baines, reaped the benefits of the move.

“Your father was here to get the bonanza that I didn’t get because I wasn’t here,” Wieczorek said. “I’m gonna have him fess up some day.”

Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter. Reach him at pfeely@unionleader.com.

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