MANCHESTER, NH – An emergency request to help families unable to afford participation in a local basketball league did not find support among the Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) on Tuesday night.
In an 11-2-1 vote, a motion to allocate up to $15,000 in contingency funds for scholarships to the Manchester Basketball League was defeated.
The amount would have provided access to the league for hundreds of children whose families could not afford the $65 registration fee, although the manner in which the request came before the board drew confusion and frustration.
Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long made the motion after learning of the issue from Manchester Basketball League founder and operator Chris Morgan.
“I want every child that wants the opportunity to play to play, and I want them to play tomorrow,” said Long.
Long and Ward 10 Alderman Bill Barry were the only votes in support of the motion, with Barry stating that Morgan could not access community improvement program (CIP) grant funds due to the fact that his program began in January.
While no one on the board seemed to be in opposition to providing the opportunity of basketball to needy children, most of the board was perplexed why this request was being made at this time. Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig, who also chairs the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC), says that this was the first time she had heard this request and felt it would be more appropriately submitted to the BOSC.
While she stated that Long had the right to make the motion, she felt it would be more appropriate to go through the normal committee process if it went through the BMA rather than the BOSC, and a presentation should be made to provide members of the BMA as to why this amount was appropriate.
Ward 12 Alderman Erin Georges Kelly, who works for Waypoint, a non-profit helping homeless youth, felt that it was inappropriate for certain non-profits to get city funding without vetting while others had to follow a more stringent process.
Ward 1 Alderman Kevin Cavanaugh praised Morgan for his work, stating previous partnerships with him, but said he had only learned about the request at 4 p.m. that day, not enough time to fully assess the request.
There was additional confusion as to whether the Manchester Basketball League was a fully non-profit organization as well as whether children that would be helped by the scholarships would be eligible to play on elementary school and middle school teams in the city.
While Barry and Long stressed the urgency of the request given the upcoming beginning of the basketball season, the short notice of the request appeared to be the key factor for most of the board’s opposition, such as from Ward 5 Alderman Anthony Sapienza.
“I would like to support this, but I have a lot of process issues,” he said. “I have watched (Manchester School District Athletic Director Christine Pariseau-Telge) talk to the (BOSC) about needing this, needing that and all the things needed in athletics. I couldn’t look her in the eye if I supported this.”
At-Large Alderman Joseph Kelly Levasseur abstained from voting, citing the need for feeder programs to help build strong high school basketball programs in the city, but also stating that he felt uncomfortable making a vote until he had a proper level of information.
Long said this violated BMA rules, but Levasseur refused to alter his vote.