THE MANCHESTER police department will no longer be responsible for school crossing guards after a month-long battle over who should pay their bill for the time schools were closed for COVID-19.

City school board members recently voted to send the bill for hours not worked by crossing guards back to the city — specifically, the police department — for payment. The department has since paid the bill, for $26,637.99 for 1,750 hours worked in April.

Several school board members argued that the crossing guards are contracted through the Manchester Police Department and therefore should be considered city employees.

That won’t be the case in the future. Police Chief Carlo Capano sent a letter to school officials informing them his department will no longer take part in the hiring or management of crossing guards.

In a letter to Superintendent John Goldhardt dated July 1, Capano wrote he plans to help the school district with training of crossing guards “in an attempt to make this as seamless as possible.”

“The Manchester Police Department has made numerous requests over the years to turn over this program to the school district, you have always indicated that you have no interest in taking this over,” Capano said.

“We have graciously taken on this task for several years, and I believe it is time for the school department to take over this responsibility, much like other school districts handle,” Capano wrote.

“The recent situation of the work completed by the crossing guards is a perfect example of why the school district should be in charge of this program. Each school will be better equipped to manage the needs of each crossing area rather than the police department.”

Capano said his department will continue to contract with the school district to provide school resource officers, but that contract will not include language on crossing guards.

Glitch-free meeting

When school board members are ready to start meeting in person again at City Hall, they need look no further than last week’s aldermen meeting for a blueprint.

Board members, some wearing masks and some not, were spread out around the aldermanic chambers, with department heads in the back rows, the back meeting room and on the second floor. Each speaker could be heard clearly on the home broadcast, and for about two and half hours life at City Hall appeared normal again.

Kudos to all involved.

School board fights on

The Manchester School Charter Commission has no plans to meet any time soon despite a plea from school board members to “reconvene and reconsider” its recommendation that aldermen retain sole authority for overriding the tax cap.

The charter commission has been meeting since early January to study whether the Board of School Committee should determine its own budget number rather than wait to be assigned a budget figure to work with by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Any change to the charter must be approved by voters through a ballot question.

A list of recommended changes were drafted after months of deliberations and public testimony. One change specifies that if the school board seeks to approve a budget that exceeds the tax cap, they have to ask the aldermen for permission.

School board members voted 11-4 to send Charter Commission chairman Mike Lopez a letter asking the commission to reconsider — after the recommendations were sent to the Attorney General’s office for approval — because of school board members’ frustration over not having final say over tax cap overrides.

“By reconsidering this you would allow the school district to have full autonomy over their finances,” the letter stated. “As you may be aware, the state of New Hampshire has allocated money dedicated to education in the amount of $3.5 million. By the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voting to not override the tax cap to allocate these funds, they took this money away from the school district and the education of our children. The Board of School Committee, as elected officials, should be allowed the same authority as the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.”

Mayor Joyce Craig was joined by Karen Soule, Leslie Want and Jeremy Dobson in voting against sending the letter.

Last week, Lopez responded with a letter of his own, declining the school board’s request.

“The Manchester School District Charter Commission has considered a number of possibilities in regards to the School Board’s financial autonomy,” Lopez wrote. “After months of meetings, deliberations, and compromise, the commission made its recommendations which are now being reviewed by the state of New Hampshire. The School District Charter Commission will not reconvene until after the state of New Hampshire has reviewed the commission’s recommendations and given its approval or disapproval, in compliance with state law.”

Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Chong Yen told the Union Leader last week that his office received the commission’s charter amendment proposal on May 27 and must respond to the proposal by Friday, July 17.

Mayoral outreach resumes

Craig is set to resume the Mayor’s Community Office Hours series. The sessions are being held outside in conjunction with other events, which means they could be rained out.

The first confirmed dates are:

July 20, 10 — 11:30 a.m., Sheridan Emmett Park (Arts in the Park)

July 30, 4:30 — 6 p.m., Victory Park (Farmer’s Market)

Aug. 12, 10 — 11:30 a.m., Sweeney Park (Arts in the Park)

That old house

Aldermen voted to support a motion by Ward 10’s Bill Barry that the board send a letter to the Diocese of Manchester urging it to spare the Chandler House, a 19th-century mansion scheduled for demolition.

The diocese filed a permit application for the demolition with the city last month. Craig sent a letter to Bishop Peter Libasci asking him to grant a last-minute reprieve for the home, built in 1878.

Craig was asked about a recent conversation between the diocese and her office about the future of the property, which both sides described as “productive and enlightening.”

“It was a very good, productive conversation and I’m hopeful, but I think a letter from this board would be helpful as well,” Craig said. “It can’t hurt.”

The motion easily passed, with only Ward 6’s Elizabeth Moreau opposed. Mike Porter of Ward 8 abstained because a family member works for the diocese.

New city website

City officials announced last week they are launching a new version of ManchesterNH.gov, the city’s official website. The new version goes live July 20, but residents can get an early look at test.manchesternh.gov before July 20. Questions or feedback can be emailed to webmaster@manchsternh.gov.

“The website refresh demonstrates the city of Manchester’s ongoing commitment to make it easier for residents to find information, engage with online services and learn what is happening across our city,” Craig said in a statement. “This new website helps to increase accessibility, offers a clean layout and improves upon our pre-existing search functionality — creating a better way for the public to access digital services.”

The website features a simplified home page and uses a data-driven approach to offer easier access to the most-visited pages.

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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