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August 05. 2013 10:25PM

With terms expired, Manchester's Conservation Commission disbands

MANCHESTER — The Manchester Conservation Commission has temporarily disbanded after members found out they had been meeting for 12 months even though most of the board members' terms had expired.

The revelation has created a surge of finger-pointing at City Hall.

The chairman of the volunteer commission, veteran member Jane Beaulieu, faults the mayor's office for not keeping on top of appointments. Mayor Ted Gatsas said he can't find people to sit on a lot of boards, and aldermen are free to fill voids if he can't.

Meanwhile, one alderman — Phil Greazzo — said his Administration Committee will ask questions about the Conservation Commission when it meets in two weeks.

Beaulieu, a Democratic state representative, is challenging the Republican Greazzo for his Ward 10 seat on the West Side.

Under state law, a conservation commission is entrusted with protecting the natural resources in a community, with an emphasis on wetlands and water resources. Most of its duties are advisory. In Manchester, the commission holds easements to about eight wetlands that developers have deeded over to the city, Beaulieu said.

Beaulieu said the commission, which is supposed to have seven members, had been operating with four. Three — herself, fellow Democratic state Rep. Bob Backus and lawyer Matt Serge — sat with expired terms. Only Greg Duval's term was valid. A term lasts three years.

Greazzo said he has many questions. The Manchester Planning and Community Development Department does not keep records or provide a clerk for the commission. The department doesn't prepare a commission agenda.

And he wonders how commission members operated for 12 months with expired terms. Greazzo said Beaulieu, a state representative, knows what a quorum is and when terms expire.

"She's had a meetings for a year without a quorum and doesn't have a problem with that?" he said.

Beaulieu said she didn't know her term had expired. For nearly 20 years, Beaulieu has been on the board, and the mayor's office would always notify members when their term was up, she said.

"They should have known. They oversee the Conservation Commission and appointed commissioners and re-upped their appointment," she said.

Beaulieu said she doesn't think any Conservation Commission work will be declared invalid. The commission makes recommendations only, and no recent projects were rejected because of commission recommendations, she said.

She planned to turn commission records over to the City Clerk Monday.

Mayor Ted Gatsas said no one slipped up in his office.

For months, Gatsas has been publicly seeking volunteers for city boards, he said.

"I don't think the Conservation Commission is something that is a standing-line only (appointment)," he said. "There's not an abundance of people that want to serve."
mhayward@unionleader.com


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