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Paul Feely's City Hall: Student representation on school board takes a step closer

April 14. 2018 8:31PM
Sarah Ambrogi is a member of the school board's Committee on Coordination and Administration. (File photo)
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If you were anywhere near City Hall last Tuesday, the loud cheering emanating from the Walter Stiles conference room on the 2nd floor wasn't a group of aldermen celebrating a budget breakthrough. Instead, it was a large group of high school students celebrating an achievement seven years in the making - possible student representation on the school board.

The school board's Committee on Coordination and Administration last week approved a motion to set up an ad hoc committee to look at the feasibility of student representation on the committee. Members of Young Organizers United (Y.O.U.), part of the Granite State Organizing Project, have attended school board meetings regularly for several years, pleading for a student rep spot at the table during the "public forum" portion" of each session.

"The ad hoc committee could tear down and figure out how to write this policy up," said Committeewoman Sarah Ambrogi of Ward 1. "The ad hoc committee could go off line and sort all this out. It would mean meeting in the summer, but maybe then by September we could be ready to roll this out."

Ambrogi suggested the ad hoc committee contain at least one temporary student member to take part in the discussions.

"We could have input from students, from principals, board members and administration," said Ambrogi.

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The 122nd Boston Marathon takes place Monday, and for the first time in the last 10 years the field of runners will not include Mayor Joyce Craig. Running the state's largest city takes precedence, after all.

"My husband and I set out with the goal of running 10 consecutive Bostons, and we did," said Craig last week. "But with everything going on, putting a budget plan together, it seemed like a good time to give the body a rest."

Craig said a group of runners she has trained with the last decade is running Boston tomorrow, and while she is unlikely to have time to watch much television coverage of the race, she will monitor their progress online.

"I'll be checking in on them," said Craig.

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The Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative launched on March 1 by Gov. Chris Sununu has been adopted by Rhode Island and could spread to other states. This week, Mayor Craig will make her pitch for the city to become an "early adopter" of the program.

"Recovery Friendly Workplaces" encourage an environment where employers, employees and communities can collaborate to create positive change and eliminate barriers for those affected by addiction. The initiative already has close ties to the Queen City, with Montagne Communications of Manchester designing and donating the logo, a purple symbol that alludes to the ribbon of a worthy cause, the shape of a shelter, and the approachable rounded corners of a caring heart.

In a memo to city aldermen, Craig states she "wholeheartedly" supports the city becoming an early adopter of the program. In a letter to Craig, Marty Boldin, Sununu's adviser for prevention, treatment, and recovery, writes it "would be an honor" to have the city join the 28 businesses that have signed on as early adopters of the initiative as of April 3.

"In the midst of the opioid epidemic, we need to adopt an 'all hands on deck' mentality and provide all members of the community with the tools they need to create an addiction resistant environment," writes Boldin.

Craig plans to ask the full board this Tuesday to send her request for the city to adopt the Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative to the Aldermanic Committee on Human Resources and Insurance to review the program.

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Members of the Aldermanic Committee on Lands and Buildings are expected to hear an update Tuesday on efforts to honor a longtime Manchester resident who invented the home video game with a bench and sculpture in the Millyard.

Kate Aiken is scheduled to go before the committee to offer a progress report on a commemorative project in honor of Ralph Baer, who worked with a group of engineers at Sanders Associates to pioneer video game technology. Baer, who lived in Manchester for over 60 years, died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The commemorative bench would feature a likeness of Baer sitting with his "signature brown box," the early gaming console he and his team developed in the late 1960s. The bench would be located at Arms Park on the end of Stark Street facing the water and in front of the Millyard.

As of Wednesday, 55 backers had pledged $14,771 to a Kickstarter page set up by Aiken to help fund the project, which has the backing of entrepreneurs Jeremy and Elizabeth Hitchcock, and John Clayton of the Manchester Historic Association.

The estimated total cost of the project is $44,400. Supporters are accepting donations to raise the remaining $29,629. Donations of $1,000 (Bronze Level), $5,000 (Silver Level) and $10,000 (Gold Level) ensures the donor's name will be engraved on a plaque at the site.

Donations are tax deductible, and checks can be made out to the Manchester Historic Association Ralph Baer Memorial Fund and sent to 129 Amherst St., Manchester, NH 03101.

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City aldermen have approved a request by Manchester-Boston Regional Airport Interim Director Tom Malafronte to sell a piece of airport-owned property in Londonderry to a residential property developer.

The parcel, described as a 17.57 acre area along High Range Road in Londonderry, as a former non-directional beacon site, no longer used for navigational purposes. The Federal Aviation Administration has removed all its equipment from the site, Malafronte said.

In a memo to aldermen, Malafronte indicates sale of the land to a residential developer is the "highest and best use of the land," with net proceeds going toward the airport's operational budget. Malafronte also said the sale of the land would eliminate expense and liability associated with maintaining and securing vacant land.

Malafronte will be back before aldermen this week to inform board members of a change in use of airport-owned property located on Winston and Gray streets, a 5.8 acre site behind the Holiday Inn on Brown Ave.

The property was originally purchased by the airport in July 2002, with the intent of using it as a remote parking lot. Airport officials no longer have need for remote parking at the location, and they don't anticipate such a need developing in the future.

According to Malafronte, airport officials have determined the "highest and best use" for the property is leasing the site, which would generate a new non-aviation revenue stream to support airport operations.

"A long-term lease with improvements on the site will produce long-term additional revenue for the airport as well as new tax revenue for the city," writes Malafronte.

The Aldermanic Committee on Lands and Buildings will take up the matter this Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at

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