As we approach the election, it’s getting harder and harder to decide what goes in week to week. I wasn’t even sure about the liquor store, until I went to the meeting.
‘A lot of spin’ put on deal for liquor store says alderman
Building a state liquor store at the corner of Granite and Second streets wasn’t the most popular idea to come before the aldermen this year, but on Tuesday, a majority of the board voted to move forward with a land swap that would allow the state to build a 10,000-square-foot store on the city-owned lot.
Manchester stands to earn $65,000 annually from the state over the next 25 years for the high-visibility location, and West Side residents would no longer have to go to Bedford or cross the river to buy their booze. But board members such as Alderman at-Large Dan O’Neil didn’t see the benefit to the city or the state in the deal. He and Aldermen Betsi DeVries, Garth Corriveau and Patrick Arnold voted against the project.
O’Neil told the board he had met with the state Liquor Commission and members of the city’s legislative delegation and was under the impression the state would rather buy the land than lease it.
“They said they’d be paying more for the land lease than if they purchased property,” said O’Neil. He also wonders why people heading up the highway would stop in Manchester to buy liquor when they could more easily do so up the road in Hooksett.
“There’s a lot of spin,” O’Neil said of the project. “It seems for many this was a done deal in the spring time.”
Arnold then asked the obvious question. Why exactly was the state willing to pay more for a lease than simply buying the land?
“I identified the location as a great location,” said Andy Davis, director of real estate for the commission. “Fairly early on meeting with Mayor (Ted) Gatsas and the (Manchester Development Corporation), they voted not to sell it to us because we would not be paying taxes. We still feel the location is a high-value target.”
Davis said on Wednesday the liquor store is anything but a done deal. The lease would need separate approval from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the Attorney General’s Office and the Executive Council.
__Despite initial skepticism, Ward 10 Alderman Phil Greazzo voted for the project. At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, he announced his vote was not a reflection of his personal views, but what he thought his constituents wanted.
“There were phone calls up front from people who were adamantly opposed, but at (a Ward 10) meeting, there were no strong opinions against it. I live in that neighborhood, but I don’t own it,” said Greazzo. “Do we let the property sit vacant for another 10 years, or do we put something there and generate some revenue for the city?
How candidates spend their money says almost as much as who gives it to them. In the most recent city campaign contributions and expenditures reports, Mayor Gatsas reported paying American Express $5,582 on a charge for his Derryfield-catered campaign event and Spectrum Monthly printing $2,600 for those mini Gatsas note pads the campaign had been handing out. His challenger, Chris Herbert, has focused his money on getting his name out, spending $295 for a Facebook ad and $1,310 on campaign signs.
Other interesting expenditures: Alderman Patrick Arnold has hired former Goffstown state Rep. Kevin Hodges to help with his campaign, Ward 4 Alderman candidate Nick Levasseur spent $4.40 on gloves for his volunteers at the Goodwill, Alderman At-Large Mike Lopez spent $471 to outfit his supporters in campaign shirts, Welfare Commissioner candidate Diane Guimond spent $54 on food for her primary day volunteers — because being nice matters — but was outdone by Ward 7 Alderman candidate Lisa Gravel, who spent $70 on primary day food for her helpers.
The most telling expenditure was reported by Ward 6 Alderman candidate Brian Desfosses. Indicating a sense of frugality, Desfosses bought $546 worth of signs from Super Cheap Signs of Austin, Texas.
Highway superintendants will soon keep a closer eye on the Highway Department vehicle fleet now that the long-delayed vehicle locator system has been approved. The tracking system for about 100 of the city’s trucks and plows, including eight vehicles driven by supervisors, will relay the location of the truck, keep track of routes and even send an alarm if a vehicle has been sitting idle for too long. The program is supposed to save money on fuel and eventually lead to more efficient use of manpower, but Alderman Russ Ouellette wasn’t buying it.
“I don’t think we’re going to see the savings is worth the expense. If we’re going to spend (funds) for something the city needs and save city money in the long run, I’d rather see money go to Tasers for the police department … I think we can do better things with this money,” said Ouellette.
Alderman Ron Ludwig, the former Parks Department director, agreed.
“I’m willing to eat crow the day you say we’re hiring three people because of savings from this,” Ludwig said.
The Manchester School Department is shopping for a shop teacher at Southside Middle School.
Southside is the only city middle school without an industrial arts program, something Superintendent of Schools Thomas Brennan would like to fix. The right candidate will be an innovative and skilled craftsman who can creatively incorporate problem-solving skills into woodworking projects. Being able to teach kids how to make something besides a bird house would be a plus, too.
Brennan said a teacher’s certification would help the applicant’s chances, but is not required. Certification can also be obtained through a state-sanctioned alternative method.