Nov. 20—CITY ALDERMEN last week approved entering into an agreement with Stebbins Commercial Properties to market the Manchester Transportation Center at 119 Canal St. in hopes of leasing it.
The site is a transit facility previously operated by Boston Express until the company vacated the property shortly before the pandemic. City officials say the company has not communicated any intention of returning to the facility’s staff.
Boston Express offers one route to Boston Logan International Airport on weekdays from the location, departing at 5:40 am and returning at 7 pm
On weekends, the bus departs at 8:10 am and returns at 6:15 pm
The site also serves as a once-daily stop for Greyhound’s route between Montreal and Boston.
Concord Coach suspended service to the Manchester Transportation Center during COVID-19 and has not reinstated it.
City officials say they have confirmed with Mike Whitten, Executive Director of the Manchester Transit Authority, that each of these routes can be accommodated at Veterans Park in downtown between Central and Merrimack Streets.
“The building is located at the gateway to our City and has the opportunity to bring economic development to the area,” Mayor Joyce Craig wrote in a memo to Aldermen.
If and when Stebbins identifies a tenant, aldermen will be asked to declare the property surplus, opening the door for it to be sold or leased.
Increase asked for athletics
The Manchester School District’s athletic director says she needs nearly an additional $1 million a year in the department’s budget to level the playing field for local athletes.
In a presentation to school board members, Kristine Pariseau-Telge said money is needed to increase the number of sports offered to city athletes and make city schools more competitive.
The current athletics department budget is $2.1 million — 1.08% of the total Manchester School Budget of $197 million. The district has 300 to 500 elementary school athletes, 700 to 1,000 middle school athletes and 1,200 to 2,000 high school athletes.
Pariseau-Telge is asking for $3.09 million, an increase or more than 40%.
The $885,000 hike would bring the athletics budget to 1.53% of the district’s overall total. If so, the athletics budget would need to be adjusted annually to take into account the anticipated annual increases in line items such as the cost of goods sold, transportation, gas and electricity, as well as to provide incentives to retain approved coaches.
Athletic revenues are generated from admission fees at football and basketball games and are credited to the general fund.
“Taking into consideration the high amount of free and reduced lunch students we currently have in our district, charging an admission fee for students should come to an end,” Pariseau-Telge recommended.
School officials report 105 teams at the city’s public high schools, many of which have limited rosters because of a lack of interest among students.
The city’s four middle schools have 32 teams, with low participation blamed in part on a lack of feeder programs.
Middle school club sports include soccer and flag football for both boys and girls. These teams play against other Manchester middle schools, and the league is run by the athletics department on Saturdays and Sundays during the spring months. All costs incurred by the two sports over the past four years have been paid from the current athletic budget.
Participation numbers for soccer and flag football continue to increase, with over 350 athletes participating this past spring, Pariseau-Telge said.
In the past four years, the athletic department has established a rotating schedule for uniforms that allows new uniforms for most teams every 3-5 years. The annual budgeted amount for athletics uniforms, equipment and supplies is $89,000, which must cover requests from 137 district teams.
According to Pariseau-Telge, the budget for supplies, uniforms and equipment has not been adjusted since the 2000.
“The dollar had an average inflation rate of 2.50% per year between 2000 and today, producing a cumulative price increase of 71.99%,” Pariseau-Telge wrote in a memo to school board members. “This means that today’s prices are 1.72 times higher than average prices since 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index.”
Items directly affected by the increase in the cost of goods include supplies, equipment and uniforms.
“Furthermore, shipping costs have not been included in past bidding but are now an important part of the discussion of purchasing and such should be included in budgetary increases,” wrote Pariseau-Telge. “Lastly, while our athletic trainers provide their services to the Manchester school district for free, the athletics department is required to purchase medical supplies needed for all teams at the middle and high school level.”
Pariseau-Telge said with the interest shown by city students for e-sports and the potential that this will become a recognized sport by the NHIAA, funding a program within all three high schools and all four middle schools will cost approximately $25,000 for coaching stipends and uniforms, although the initial startup costs would be high.
Pariseau-Telge also argued coach stipends need to be revamped and significantly increased. “Manchester is not competitive with other Division 1 schools,” she wrote. “Many coaches turn down positions, leave positions or do not apply due to the low stipends.”
Stipends have not been increased or revised for at least 17 years, Pariseau-Telge said. She recommended a 10% increase to the stipend amount, with the district revising the issue every five years.
Athletics depended on game staff, paid a small amount to assist game functions, ranging from game managers and line crews, to scoreboard operators and announcers.
“We are having a difficult time filling these positions due to the low pay and increasing issues with spectators and players,” Pariseau-Telge wrote, adding she was unaware of the last time pay was increased for the positions.
Current pay ranges from $25 to $40, depending on the duties, and the athletics department believes a $5-10 increase in game pay would help attract qualified help.
The school board took no action on Pariseau-Telge’s report.
Paul Feely is the City Hall reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Reach him at [email protected].