MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Tuesday night, an attempt to halt a bond resolution for $1.3 million toward construction at McLaughlin and Hillside Middle Schools failed and will now layover for a vote on final enrollment during the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s August meeting.
The bond would expand and renovate the schools, allowing them to incorporate fifth grade students, a transition made by Southside and Parkside Middle Schools in recent years that has been a key part of the redistricting efforts in Manchester’s public schools.
The motion to stop the resolution came from Ward 5 Alderman Anthony Sapienza, who has spearheaded attempts to oppose bonding for putting fifth-graders into the city’s middle schools in the past. On Tuesday, Sapienza felt the idea was poorly planned and would draw resources away from more needed priorities.
Sapienza requested that the resolution be taken out of bond resolutions recommended to Aldermen’s Committee on Finance and instead have it be received and filed, ultimately concluding the request.
“Seeing this on this list really bothers me,” he said.
Ward 8 Alderman Michael Porter and Ward 7 Alderman Ross Terrio wondered if the COVID-19 pandemic would impact the space needs inherent in the bond request.
Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw followed that Southside and Parkside were already thriving with the new Grade 5-8 configuration, with Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig building on Shaw’s comment that this motion had the Aldermen infringing on the Manchester School District’s authority to run the city’s schools.
“We can’t say, ‘okay, you’re alright, you’re alright, but Hillside and McLaughlin, you get the shaft’,” said Shaw.
Sapienza was joined by Will Stewart (Ward 2), Dan O’Neil (At-Large) Joseph Kelly Levasseur (At-Large), Bill Barry (Ward 10), Normand Gamache (Ward 11), and Keith Hirschmann (Ward 12)
Terrio, Porter and Shaw opposed the motion along with Kevin Cavanaugh (Ward 1), Pat Long (Ward 3), Jim Roy (Ward 4) and Elizabeth Moreau (Ward 6).
That bond and other others eventually approved and laid over within the Aldermanic Finance Committee will need ten votes at their second hearing.
Sapienza also expressed concerns over another bond resolution authorizing $215,000 for pickleball courts at Prout Park.
He said that pickleball would not be geared toward youth in the neighborhood near the park.
Terrio said that the site of the proposed pickleball court currently holds dilapidated tennis courts already used for pickleball and had once been a hotspot for drug use.
Terrio added that the site also had vines, which he and others removed.
Craig posited that parks should be viewed as resources for all residents of the city, not just those living immediately adjacent to the park.
“It’s important that we have parks that meet the needs of all residents of Manchester,” said Craig. “What’s important is a park having an activity and having people there, because it will keep the neighborhood and the park safe.”
A request from Porter to Sapienza to withdraw his motion to receive and file the pickleball request and instead table it to see if a multi-use facility could be built with that funding was approved by a voice vote.