MANCHESTER, N.H. – The first in-person local government meeting in Manchester since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic did not go exactly as planned.
On Monday, the Board of School Committee (BOSC) voted 8-7 to adjourn shortly after beginning their agenda due to technical difficulties.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu’s latest extension of an emergency order prohibiting most groups of more than 10 people expired on June 15, meaning that the board could once again meet in person. However, only about half of the board met in the City Hall meeting room, with other members participating through video, as the entire board had been doing in previous meetings.
Staff had tested the technology on Friday for future aldermanic meetings, but feedback from the video and open microphones made communication nearly impossible between the in-person board members and the remote board members.
Efforts to return in-person local government meetings had been discussed at previous aldermanic meetings but had been infeasible before due to cost concerns from meetings outside of city hall as well as the Governor’s emergency order.
At-Large Board of School Committee Member Joseph Lachance made the motion to adjourn, with another board member attempting to make a motion to recess the meeting while Lachance’s motion was on the table. The motion to recess was ruled out of order.
Lachance called the meeting “chaos” and his request to adjourn was joined by Ward 3 BOSC Member Karen Soule, Ward 4 BOSC Member Leslie Want, Ward 6 BOSC Member Dan Bergeron Ward 9 BOSC Member Arthur Beaudry, Ward 10 BOSC Member Jane Beaulieu, Ward 11 BOSC Member Dr. Nicole Leapley, Ward 12 BOSC Member Kelly Thomas.
The motion was opposed by Ward 1 BOSC Member James Porter, Ward 2 BOSC Member Kathleen Kelley-Arnold, Ward 5 BOSC Member Jeremy Dobson, Ward 7 BOSC Member William Shea, Ward 8 BOSC Member Peter Perich, At-Large BOSC Member James O’Connell and Mayor Craig.
Soule, Want, Kelley-Arnold, Dobson, Perich, Bergeron, O’Connell and Mayor Craig were at city hall, the other BOSC Members participated remotely.
In a statement, the mayor noted that the July 7 aldermanic meeting will be in-person, which has been cleared with the Manchester Health Department, and that City Hall is now open.
“I am disappointed that the Board of School Committee voted to adjourn the meeting this evening rather than recessing to address technical difficulties,” she said. “In order to conduct these meetings with the transparency that the people of Manchester deserve, I hope that the Board of School Committee will make adequate accommodations for in-person meetings moving forward.”
Information on whether the meeting would be made up in the near future was not available on Monday night.
Editor’s note: The date of the next scheduled in-person aldermanic meeting was updated from an earlier version of the story.