December 11, 2017
Donna D. Holaday
Transportation Summits: On Tuesday, Nov. 28th, Senator Tom McGee, soon to be Mayor of the City of Lynn, organized a transportation summit at the Essex County Community Foundation to discuss needs in Essex County. Mayors and Town Managers from the county attended to raise concerns regarding transportation including commuter congestion from the north to Boston, issues with the commuter rail, north-south rail connection, and light rail for Beverly and Salem. The team agreed that there is much data currently available on transportation that needs to be compiled for review at a follow-up meeting.
On Thursday, Nov. 30th the Merrimac Valley Planning Commission hosted a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy with the Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack. Secretary gave an update of the status of the transportation system, commuter rail and MBTA. Teams then worked on specific community issues impacting economic development.
Rotary and Chamber of Commerce Breakfast: Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Rosalin Acosta provided an overview of the work within her division including labor market statistics, housing, transportation and workforce initiatives.
Intermodal Facility/Garage: Building demolition began last week and the process is proceeding well. NED has another 4 weeks to complete the demolition and site preparation followed by transfer of the property to the City. Intermodal Advisory Group met on Nov. 30th to provide an update to the abutters on the process. As the project is now moving forward, IAG meetings will happen on a monthly basis. Sub-contractor bids due December 13th and General Contractor bids due on 12/21.
Parking Study: John Burke, Parking Consultant has completed his study; Andy Port will schedule an initial review with the Mayor’s Office followed by presentation of the findings and recommendations to the City Council and public for feedback and comment. This is one reason I am asking you hold on your final vote on the Zoning Amendment to Off-street parking tonight as well as the fact the Chamber and business community has not been included in the review process and impact.
Master Plan: It has been a long process to reach the passage of this important plan that will guide our city over the next decade and beyond. I am very grateful to the many, many hours devoted to this project by Andy Port and Kathleen Newhall-Smith in our Planning Office. I would also like to express my sincerest appreciation to City Councilors, Board members and community members for their participation in developing the new Master Plan.
Zoning Rewrite: The Master Plan is now complete with the final acceptance hopefully this evening and we are re-establishing the Zoning Working Group to complete the revisions to our zoning code. Andy Port, Planning Director will be reaching out to members to begin these meetings.
Brown School: The adaptive re-use of this school building has been very challenging given all the site constraints youth services and desire to keep the gym, playground, park and parking. We had three bidders and held follow-up meetings with each group but each of these proposals had concerns. We also see a very high need in the community for more affordable housing. The Affordable Housing Trust has been brought into the process with a productive meeting last Friday. Our goal is to provide more affordable units and accommodate this site as the core facility for Youth Services. We anticipate releasing a new RFP in late January and once we have worked out these issues with the site constraints. Councilors Zeid and Eigerman have been part of and supportive of the process.
YOUTH SERVICES & The BEACON COALITION: Tina Los, Prevention Coordinator funded by a 3-year Tower Foundation grant, hosted a Community Leader’s Breakfast on Nov. 1st to share with our new regional school and community partners the successful work we have completed on the Asset Model and our work with youth.
Complete Streets & Other Safety Issues:
Complete Streets is a policy I have strongly advocating for adopting for nearly four years. I am very pleased we have created a workable policy and look forward to our advancing this work by prioritizing areas within the City that would improve safety by adopting this policy to place the Newburyport in a position for grant funding for implementation.
Hale St. Ad Hoc Group: DPS is preparing a presentation on existing conditions for a meeting to be held in mid-January. It was important to have this information to understand constraints of the site and to begin brainstorming options for safe student travel from the west end. Thank you to all of the residents who volunteered for this group and a meeting date will be issued shortly.
Merrimac River Beach Alliance: A subgroup of the MRBA has been meeting with our legislators and municipal leaders to figure out the permitting and next steps for the Piscataqua River and Merrimac River dredging for sand to be used in Salisbury and Plum Island. Many details and costs are under discussion.
NRA, WFT and City: As you know we were directed over a year ago to revise the Waterfront Trust docs and dissolve the NRA. We held a meeting with full representation from the NRA and WFT agreeing to work with representatives of the NRA and WFT as well as Settlors to complete the revision. We reached consensus after three meetings and continue to wait for a final draft. Unfortunately the NRA moved to a work on a Letter of Intent but efforts are being made by the Trust to get the work back on track. We need to make decisions about two NRA appointments up this April 1st as they will need a full team to vote on dissolution.
Storm Surge: hosted a summit on Newburyport’s Preparedness for weather related emergencies last Thursday night. The Mayor, Molly Ettenborough Energy & Sustainability Coordinator, Julia Godtfredsen, Conservation Administrator, Jon-Eric White, City Engineer, and Chris LeClair Chief/EMD presented. We were fortunate to be one of the Great Marsh Study communities that identified our vulnerabilities in our City. We now move to work on the Municipal Vulnerabilities Grant to prioritize these identified vulnerabilities and develop an action plan.
School District: The search process for a new NHS principal and school superintendent are underway. A series of focus groups have been established for the community to weigh in on important skills and characteristics of a new superintendent. Our consultant NESDEC will host the evening focus group Wed., 12/13 from 6-8 pm at the Senior Community Center.
Anna Jaques Hospital (AJH): AJH is working on a merger expanding their affiliation with Beth Israel Hospital and other community hospitals. A public meeting with the State Department of Public Health is scheduled for Jan. 3rd at 5:30 in City Hall Auditorium.
Clipper City Rail Trail: Geordie Vining’s last day is Friday, 12/15 and the work he has completed for the City during his past 17 years is commendable and will benefit our city and residents for years to come. We wish him the very best in his new job. There are many details for the completion of this Phase of the Rail Trail but we have strong contractors and confidence in the final months of this work. Several sculptures have been installed along the Parker St. /March’s Hill corridor and murals are completed and hope to be installed this week along Harrison toward Water St. A new easement for the abutters to March’s Hill is close to completion involving the adjacent land and reconfigure of the path. It appears we will not need a cap or ALU for the small contaminated area behind the Wastewater Treatment Facility.
Mayor Gray: completed his hours of community service last Friday night to honor his bet on the Thanksgiving Day football game. We collected scarves, hats and gloves for Veterans and funds for the Salvation Army. Yes, he wore a Clipper hat!
Finally, to Councilor Ed Cameron and Councilor Bob Cronin; thank you for your service and dedication to the many years you gave to the City in your roles as City Councilors. We wish you our sincerest gratitude and the very best.
And to all of our residents and business owners…