News from around the NH and southern Maine Seacoast.
Council approves women’s sober home
The Hilltop City will be home to a new sober recovery home for women — possibly as early as this spring. City councilors on Jan. 11 approved a plan to lease the former Malley Farm Boy’s Home, located at 45 Malley Farm Road, to Sober Sisters Recovery, a nonprofit that’s been working for almost a year on opening a women’s sober home in the city.
“We’re feeling very excited,” said Moné Cassier, who co-founded Sober Sisters with Marybeth Schofield. Cassier is the president of the nonprofit’s board of directors. “It’s been a long road, and we are just thrilled.”
Cassier said she and Schofield have received a proposed lease from city manager Bob Belmore and are in the process of reviewing it. Once the lease is signed, Cassier said the group will begin work on renovating the building, which was previously a residential care home for teenage boys from 1979 to August 2015. Cassier hopes the facility will be open sometime this spring.
Sober Sisters will house up to seven women in recovery from drugs and alcohol, as well as an on-site staff member, Cassier said. Residents will be required to find jobs, do chores around the house, and pay a nominal weekly rent as part of living at the home. According to Cassier, the facility will also offer programs like yoga, life skills classes, and women’s health classes and will connect residents with local health care providers. Cassier said the goal is to help residents “really work on becoming whole as a woman” so that they can stay sober and, in some cases, work on regaining custody of their children.
“If a woman gets a solid foundation without getting into an unhealthy relationship and slowly gets involved with her children or family, the relapse is less apt to happen,” said Cassier, who lives in Rollinsford and is a volunteer at the Strafford County House of Corrections.
Work on opening the home began late in the spring of 2015, shortly after a mutual friend of Cassier and Schofield died of a heroin overdose.
“We were devastated. Marybeth drove over and we talked about it and said, ‘OK, we’re going to start looking for a building,’” Cassier said.
Since then, the two have been working with city officials and raising money to open the home. Cassier has been running marathons as a way to raise money and will run a half-marathon in Maui this week. She said the group has raised about $10,500 of its goal of $25,000. — Larry Clow
Mara hired as interim police chief
Former Manchester police Chief David Mara has been hired as the city’s interim police chief for six months. City councilors approved an employment agreement with Mara at a Jan. 11 meeting. The council voted 7-2 in favor of the contract, with councilors Chris Dwyer and Eric Spear voting against the agreement.
Police commissioner Joseph Onosko spoke in support of Mara before the vote.
“We’re very fortunate to have Chief Mara during this important, and, frankly, let’s admit, a difficult period of time and an important transition moment,” Onosko said.
Onosko added that Mara will bring “strong leadership to the department” and will help guide efforts for the department to receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, as well as also assist in the commission’s search for a permanent police chief. Onosko said that the police commission has not started its search for a new chief, but hopes that one will be selected shortly after the city’s fiscal year begins in July.
As part of the agreement, the city will pay Mara $72.12 per hour with a cap of 32 hours per week. Mara will receive five paid sick days and 10 paid vacation days and will not receive compensation for unused sick or vacation days. The police commission can terminate the contract only if Mara does not fulfill his duties as interim chief, does not comply with the contract, is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, or violates any state laws or city charter provisions. Mara can terminate the contract with 30 days advance notice.
Former Chief Stephen DuBois resigned on Jan. 1 in the wake of widespread criticism of his handling of a controversy involving former Sgt. Aaron Goodwin, who has been accused of exerting undue influence over Geraldine Webber, an elderly woman who altered her will to benefit Goodwin before her death.
During the meeting on Jan. 11, councilor Brad Lown asked if the contract could be amended to include a provision that the city could terminate the contract with Mara if a permanent chief was found before the end of the contract. City attorney Robert Sullivan said councilors could not amend the contract and could only approve or not approve it.
Dwyer said her vote against the contract was “in no way a reflection on Chief Mara.”“I think we’ve had so many irregularities in the process” of choosing an interim chief, she said, that it is “not a good way to start this new council.”
Mayor Jack Blalock said he “would be more comfortable” with the contract if there was a provision for terminating it if a permanent chief is found before the contract expires, but supported the contract overall.
“I think we are all sitting here because we want to see this city move forward,” Blalock said. “I agree with (Mara’s) qualifications and am looking forward to having him help us forge ahead.” — LC