DIVERSITY IS A VOTE away from becoming one of the criteria in awarding city contracts after the Aldermanic Committee on Administration and Information Systems voted last week to recommend a proposal from the city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to modify the city’s procurement code ordinance.
In a letter to aldermen, DEI Committee Chairman Anthony Chui wrote that the proposal’s goal is to make Manchester more inclusive in terms of practices related to “race, ethnicity, color, gender, age, national origin, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, results of genetic testing, physical or mental disability or veteran status.”
The Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index measures the inclusivity of municipalities’ laws, policies, and services, particularly for the LGBTQ community. Chui’s committee suggested adding language to Manchester’s procurement code to improve the city’s MEI report card.
Currently, the city procurement code reads, “Contracts for the procurement of supplies, materials and construction shall be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder unless otherwise provided for in the bidding documents or in the procurement code. The basis of award shall always be defined in the bidding documents. Among other factors that may be considered in determining lowest responsible bidders are the following: …”
Committee members are recommending this language be added: “(7) The company has a non-discrimination policy that expressly covers but is not limited to, race, ethnicity, color, gender, age, national origin, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, results of genetic testing, physical or mental disability or veteran status.”
If approved by the full board, non-discrimination would become another criterion that could be considered in determining the winning bid, in addition to capability, timeliness, previous performance, quality, legal compliance and conditions requested by the bidders.
The recommendation for approval came after several city department heads — who were contacted for their opinion or assent on the proposal — said they already comply with federal and state anti-discrimination laws. The added language wouldn’t change how they conduct their procurement and award processes, they said.
The city solicitor also didn’t report any legal issues with the revision.
The matter now heads to the full board for a vote at the June 1 meeting.
New face from Ward 6
Sebastian Sharonov was sworn in recently as the new Ward 6 alderman in a small ceremony attended by his predecessor, Elizabeth Moreau, who resigned after moving to Ward 1.
Sharonov said in a statement he is humbled that Ward 6 voters put their trust in him to finish former alderman Moreau’s term.
“There is a lot to do this upcoming budget season, and I am ready to step into the arena and honorably represent the hard-working residents of Ward 6,” Sharonov said. “As I emphasized from the very beginning of my campaign, as a populist, one of my main concerns is to make sure the voices of Ward 6 voters are heard loud and clear at the City Hall.”
Sharonov said he plans to hold quarterly ward town hall meetings to answer constituents’ questions and listen to voters’ concerns and ideas.
Sharonov participated in his first board meeting last week, entering the fray by making a motion to remove the mask requirement inside city-owned buildings in Manchester. The motion failed on a 9-3 vote, with only Sharonov, Joe Kelly Levasseur and Keith Hirschmann in favor.
Budget surplus forecast
City Finance Director Sharon Wickens last week presented her FY 2021 General Fund expenditure and revenue forecast, which currently projects an operating surplus of $2,928,500.
The projected surplus represents an expenditure savings of $3,114,500 and American Rescue Plan aid of $937,000, which offset a revenue drop of $1,123,000, according to Wickens.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury has said municipalities can use the aid for “revenue replacement for the provision of government services to the extent the reduction in revenue due to the COVID-19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent fiscal year prior to the emergency.”
The surplus includes $600,000 in debt service savings. Included in the expense savings is a transfer of $525,000 from the contingency account.
According to Wickens, the city had 37 retirements through May 17, on par with the 37 retirements in the previous fiscal year. Severance paid through May 17 amounts to $1,727,744, compared to $1,478,408 a year ago.
First responders led all other city departments in retirements and severance payouts. Through May 17, the police department reported 12 retirements and $682,523 in severance. The fire department also reported 12 retirements, with severance of $672,434.
As of May 17, the severance reserve account had a balance of $342,597.
Chief formally named
In what was basically a formality, aldermen voted unanimously to confirm Andre Parent as Manchester’s new fire chief.
Parent will receive Grade 29, Step 14 pay — $148,425.13 a year.
Former fire chief Dan Goonan retired on April 30.
Parent has been with the department for 33 years, rising from firefighter to lieutenant, captain, district chief and most recently assistant chief.
Spiffing up city parks
Work has started at Rock Rimmon Park on a new basketball court, new walkway, additional parking spaces, added lighting and other improvements. The pickleball courts will remain open as much as possible but may be closed for brief periods.
The monument in Veterans Park is being restored. The fountain bowl already has been repaired and bronze statues are being cleaned.
Pieces of the statues that have been missing will be recast and replaced. The lighting also will be restored.
The bulk of the renovation work should be completed by mid-summer.
Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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