Dover City Council - Regular Meeting - 01/12/2022
Updated: Jan 16
The Dover City Council met for it's first regular meeting of the 2022-2023 term on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 at 7pm in the Council Chambers at City Hall.
The first order of business was for the Council to remove from the table the Procedural Rules and Decorum guidelines for the 2022-2023 Council term. The Council voted to approve the guidelines as amended. The guidelines remained largely unchanged with the exception of changing the name of Citizen's Forum to Public Forum. The guidelines of who can participate remain unchanged; residents, business owners, tax payers and representatives from Dover organizations are encouraged to make their voices heard.
During the Public Forum, Alex Beauchner, leader of the Seacoast Chapter of ABLE NH, spoke regarding the organization's work with the City of Dover on urban design that accommodates universal accessibility for all mobility types. He expressed that working with the City has been collaborative, but that the organization has some recommendations for higher standards of design. Read more in ABLE NH's letter to the City Council titled 'Dover Jan 12 2022.docx', located in the City's public records under the 'Meeting Minutes' tab, here.
The City Manager provided his regular report. Here are a few of the main topics discussed:
Dover Fire & Emergency Chief, Paul Haas, spoke on the COVID-19 response in Dover. He advised we are seeing increased case numbers, like the rest of the state and country, likely driven by the Omicron variant. He reported that while Wentworth-Douglass is seeing an increase in visits to the Emergency Department, fewer patients are being admitted to the hospital past that. The ICU continues to have a high volume of COVID patients, most of whom are unvaccinated. Vaccination continues to be the most effective way of controlling the spread and impact of the virus. Dover Fire & Rescue is now hosting regular vaccine clinics at the Dover Public Library. The clinics are on Wednesdays from 2pm -6pm. Residents are encouraged to make appointments, but walk-ins are welcome. The Chief reported that over 50 vaccinations, including boosters, were administered during the first clinic.
City Manager Mike Joyal and the City Council acknowledged and congratulated Chief Haas on his upcoming retirement from the Fire & Emergency Management department after 24 years of service with the City of Dover.
The City Manager advised that Dover was successful in securing grant funding for a project to build an emergency water connection between the cities of Dover and Portsmouth, similar to the connection that exists between Dover and Somersworth. This connection links over 12 water systems in the greater Seacoast area. The connection will travel over the soon-to-be-built General Sullivan Pedestrian Bridge over the Little Bay.
Assistant City Manager Christopher Parker has been promoted to Deputy City Manager, overseeing all of the City's development initiatives across departments. With this change the City Manager intends to hire a Director of Planning.
The City Council and School Board will have a joint workshop meeting on January 19, to begin budget discussions. State Senator David Watters and the Dover Legislative delegation will provide an update to the Council on upcoming legislation and the state of public education in New Hampshire.
The Greater Dover Chamber of Commerce will be hosting an economic forecast presentation on January 18. See the Chamber's website here for more details.
Mayor Carrier gave his report to the Council.
Mayor Carrier spoke to the work of the Fidelity Committee, a committee created with the purpose of creating a master plan on addressing the issue of homelessness in the Tri-City area. Having completed the master plan, the committee is being dissolved, and the work proposed in the master plan will now move to the hands of the City Staff of the three individual cities. Councilor Lindsey Williams advised that the Public appreciated the transparent nature of the committee, and expressed support for that transparency to continue. Mayor Carrier promised the work on homelessness would remain open to the Public.
Mayor Carrier spoke about the recent snow storm and asked the Public to be good neighbors and help clear sidewalks for pedestrians while the City, which is short-staffed due to COVID, continues to work on snow removal.
While discussing the Consent Calendar items, Councilor Linnea Nemeth spoke regarding the authorization to utilize Saint Anselm College's Center for Ethics in Society. The City intends to contract with the Center to complete a study on the impacts of mental health on the Dover Community. Councilor Nemeth expressed her support for the authorization while Councilor Fergus Cullen expressed concern with the authorization, stating that the Center's mission statement doesn't specifically cover this type of work. Councilor Deborah Thibodeaux also spoke, acknowledging the concern, but expressing the need for this type of study in our community, advising that it would help determine where we're at, and what our next steps should be. The authorization passed by a vote of 7-1.
The Council voted to approve the promotion of Christopher Parker to Deputy City Manager.
By a vote of 8-0, the Council approved a resolution to accept a purchase and sale agreement for a parcel of land on Arch Street to be used for conservation. The land contains many existing trails and the expectation is that the Conservation Commission will work with Recreation to further develop the trails, allowing the land to be used by the Public. The land is also home to a lot of wildlife and will be a great asset for the Downtown community.
Ordinances in the 1st Reading
The Council voted 8-0 to move Chapter 17, Sections 12 & 13 - Elections, forward to public hearing. This ordinance is to establish new ward boundaries following the 2020 census. Before voting, Councilor Debra Hackett expressed her concern with how the new ward boundaries may impact the New Hampshire House of Representative's new state legislative districts, particularly the fact that Ward 4 is slated to lose it's own representative and become part of a district including Durham, Madbury and Lee. The Council will likely discuss this issue in further detail at the workshop meeting to be held on January 19.
Council Matters of Interest
Councilor Linnea Nemeth advised of an article in Foster's regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the medical and first responder community. She urged the public to read the article, and to get vaccinated and wear masks to help ease the burden on hospitals and first responders.