Paul Feely's City Hall: Aldermen hear from resident 'filled with complete disgust'By PAUL FEELY
July 29. 2017 11:57PM
ANYONE WHO CAUGHT the July 18 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen likely remembers the testimony offered by Lisa Gravel, an 18-year resident and property owner in Ward 7, as she lit into board members - specifically Ward 2 Alderman Ron Ludwig and Ward 11 Alderman Normand Gamache, for what she believes are "obvious" violations of the City Charter.
"I have watched many of these board meetings and been filled with complete disgust," said Gravel. "I watch as you vote on unsustainable contract after unsustainable contract, giving city employees perks I can only dream of. I mean, 'Fast Day' - this is a holiday that has not been on the books since the '90s. So now the cops get this holiday and just as the firemen have, I am sure the rest of the city unions will be lined up to demand it also in their next contract."
Gravel said she doesn't blame the unions.
"I blame the aldermen," said Gravel. "Their job is to protect the taxpayers from being bled dry. But my taxes just keep going higher and higher. Year after year, I tell myself this board can't get any worse. Well, congratulations - you have really outdone yourself this year."
Gravel mentioned a board vote last month to approve a fact finder's report recommending raises for firefighter and fire supervisor unions. City aldermen voted 7-6 to approve the report, with Kevin Cavanaugh, Ludwig, Chris Herbert, Dan O'Neil, Tom Katsiantonis, Bill Barry and Gamache voting in favor. Opposed were Keith Hirschmann, Pat Long, Tony Sapienza, Joseph Kelly Levasseur, Bill Shea and Barbara Shaw. The report recommended two-year pay increases of 3 percent per year for Manchester firefighters and supervisors.
Mayor Ted Gatsas blocked the vote with a veto, saying the two-year price tag of the recommendations made in the report - totaling more than $4 million - would lead to future job losses. An attempt to override the veto failed.
Ludwig has two sons working for the Manchester Fire Department. City salary data show Kurt Ludwig received $63,250.92 in salary in 2016, and $36,160.95 in benefits. A second son, Karl, earned $52,574.26 in salary and $23,896.08 in benefits in 2016. Gamache also has a son in the fire department, District Fire Chief Michael Gamache. He received a salary of $145,839.67 and $62,609.46 in benefits last year.
According to Manchester's City Charter, Section 9.03(e), which regards conflict of interest, "No city official shall participate in the decision-making process of any matter in which the official or a member of the official's immediate family has a direct personal or financial interest. Any official who believes such an interest exists shall disclose such interest and shall not participate in the matter further."
"I am not sure why Aldermen Ludwig and Gamache, whose children work for the Manchester Fire Department, do not think this represents 'immediate family members that would have a direct financial interest' in their vote," said Gravel. "I also do not understand why the board itself stood for this. This should have immediately been referred to the Conduct Board."
While similar complaints against Ludwig and Gamache - and Shaw for that matter, for approving a contract with city teachers, including her daughter - they are consistently received and filed by board members.
What makes this complaint a little different is Gravel turned it into a petition, stood outside City Hall - and collected 127 signatures from others who share her concerns.
How will aldermen handle Gravel's complaint? The matter is expected to appear on the agenda for the next full board meeting in August.
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An awards night for the city's 12th annual Employee and Family Art Show was held last week at the City Library.
The show features a collection of more than 150 artistic pieces designed by 90 city employees and their immediate family members from various departments, including elected officials, volunteers, retirees and the Manchester School District employees and family members.
The works are divided into three adult categories: amateur, intermediate and professional. Two youth categories are also featured: 12 & under and teen. The first-, second- and third-place winners in each of the categories received cash prizes. Prizes were also awarded in the Mayor's Choice, and People's Choice category.
The winners were chosen by an independent panel of judges consisting of photographic artist, illustrator and educator Ella Putney Carlson; fused glass artist Verne Orlosk; and Grace Burr, owner of Creative Framing Solutions on Hanover Street.
The show is coordinated by Mayor's Assistant Vicki Ferraro.
"It's exciting to know we have so many talented artists in the city of Manchester," said Gatsas.
The following list of winners from the show was announced last week:
Mayor's Choice - Tracey Goodwin for "Hesitant"
People's Choice - Ivy Levine for "Ogunquit"
Best in Show - Lauren Boisvert for "Caged Jenny Saville"
Art Education Award - Kelly Ryan for "Autumn Raindrops"
In the Youth 12 & Under category, Julia Baer took first place for "Wave." In the Teen 13-18 category, Skyelar Asselin was tops with "Reflection."
Lauren Anderson was first in the Amateur category for "KOI," while Julia Starr was tops in the Intermediate category with "Willa." Danny Snow's "Guardian Angel" came in first in the Professional category.
Congratulations to the winners. The public is invited to view the pieces at the "Art on the Wall at City Hall" Gallery in City Hall and throughout the City Hall Annex during normal business hours through Aug. 29.
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The Manchester Police Department will host its next entry-level police exam on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the New Hampshire Police Academy in Concord. The application process to take the exam will remain open until Monday, Sept. 11. Information and applications can be obtained by visiting manchesternh.gov/jobs. Call Officer Carl Accorto with the department's Training Division for more information at 792-5452.
Staff reporter Paul Feely covers Manchester City Hall for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.