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Paul Feely's City Hall: Getting undeclared voters to polls is goal in mayor race

September 23. 2017 8:49PM
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and challenger Joyce Craig run into each other at Ward 11 polls on the day of the city's primary, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. They wished each other good luck. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

ALMOST A WEEK after the city's municipal primary election, the numbers still don't make it any easier to predict who wins this November.

While Joyce Craig placed first with 5,812 votes, nearly one-third of her total tally - 1,890 votes - came from just two wards. Voters in those two areas of the city, Wards 1 and 2, have backed Democrats in recent years, so there's little surprise she got the nod there.

Mayor Ted Gatsas fared well in more blue-collar wards, and finished strong in Ward 8 with 712 votes - much higher than the 560 he received in 2015. Same story in Ward 12, where he won this year with 450 votes, compared to 379 in 2015.

Despite the nonpartisan nature of the election, the results show the divide that exists along party lines - and how important efforts to attract folks from the pool of 21,965 undeclared voters will be between now and Nov. 7 for both campaigns.

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Expect Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bolgen Vargas and other administrators to give details on a financial analysis for moving the district offices to Manchester High School West when the school board meets at City Hall Monday at 7 p.m.

According to documents provided to school board members, the cost to renovate West and move the offices there comes in at $1,338,000. The annual savings the district is projected to realize after such a move is completed is pegged at $100,514 in FY'19, and just under $100,000 the next four fiscal years.

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Karen Machado, principal at Manchester School of Technology, has been asked by officials at the U.S. State Department to host a visit from Brazilian dignitaries at the school on Oct. 5 from 9 a.m. to noon. The Brazilian officials will tour the school and observe classes.

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One of the big winners in Tuesday's primary was Will Stewart, candidate for alderman in Ward 2. With five candidates on the ballot Stewart - executive director of Stay Work Play New Hampshire - beat his closest competitor by a more than two-to-one margin, the largest such percentage win in any city race.

Stewart garnered 591 votes, with second place finisher Bob O'Sullivan receiving 248 votes.

"I am humbled and honored by our performance on Tuesday," Stewart said. "A sincere thank you to everyone whose vote we earned. I also want to thank everyone who put their name on the ballot this year.

"We enjoyed a very spirited primary campaign. I look forward to continuing to discuss the important issues facing Ward 2 and the city in the weeks ahead as we make our way to the general election in November."

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Barbara Shaw and former city Fire Chief James Burkush, both candidates for alderman in Ward 9, have agreed informally to appear together for a question and answer session with residents. A specific date, time and location have yet to be worked out.

This after Burkush took to social media after winning the primary by 5 votes, 387 to 382, to dispel erroneous information posted about him on social media.

"I believe that many of the residents of Ward 9 have been misinformed regarding my stand on a few issues," writes Burkush. "First and foremost, as a retired Fire Chief of this great city I would never advocate the closing of any Fire station. Second. regarding the tax cap, I would only override to maintain the essential city services that we provide. Police, Fire, Public Works and Education. And finally, the scare tactics that are being circulated about me are so off base, I spent 39 years protecting the citizens of this city and would never put politics ahead of public safety! I would be glad to discuss these issues with any and all of you."

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Aaron Triehy of Manchester, an Eagle Scout candidate from Troop 109 in Londonderry, has received school board approval to build an outdoor classroom for Green Acres Elementary School.

"It would be an open concept kind of structure, like a lean-to," Triehy told members of the school board's Building and Sites Committee. "If you have ever seen a carport with a slanted roof it is basically designed similar to one of those."

Triehy said he spent some time as a young student working on an outdoor classroom.

"The reasoning behind my project is when I was in fourth grade we worked with the SEA and we made an outdoor classroom with them, but it wasn't a really good outdoor classroom," said Triehy. "It was maybe eight slates for people to sit on and a board for the teacher to write at and we didn't use it that much because after a while it got buried under the ground because the plows went over it. I figured if we made a nicer one the teachers would be able to bring their students outside and they would be able to learn in an outdoor environment."

Triehy's plans call for a wooden structure with support beams for more strength to handle snow accumulation and wind. He said he has received a quote of $1,700 for his project, and is ready to start fundraising efforts.

"I just wanted to say thank you for taking this on," said school board member Leslie Want of Ward 4. "I think it is a great project and I'm fully in support of it. I think you are a great kid for thinking of your school and wanting to help out and make this nice space for students."

Rick Norton, principal of Green Acres School, said Aaron "is a former cricket himself," a nickname for students at the school.

"This is exactly the kind of thing that we want from our students, not just at Green Acres obviously but throughout the district, to grow up and come back and give back," said Norton.

"Aaron's project sends chills up my spine when I think about the amount of work that he has done to get ready," said Dennis O'Neil, Aaron's coach for the project and an assistant scoutmaster. "It is a great project. The Boy Scouts of America are 100 percent behind him in terms of what we can lend for support to him. We obviously want it to be his project. We are trying to stay in the background, but we will give him whatever support is necessary."

Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at

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