January 8, 2018
Donna D. Holaday
DPS: This recent freeze and blizzard has caused significant challenges to water, sewer and highway departments. My sincerest thanks to Tony Furnari, DPS Director and Wayne Amaral, Deputy Director for leading the citywide snow removal, work will continue with snow removal efforts. I would also like to recognize the water crews led by Dan Lynch in dealing with a series of water main breaks over the past several weeks and completing repairs in very difficult conditions.
Plum Island presented new challenges with the storm surge coming from the marsh and flooding out several areas resulting in closing access for several hours. The blizzard and storm surge combined with freezing weather is causing low vacuum pressure with the Air Vac sewer system. We have crews working 24/7 to stay on top of problem areas. Jamie Tuccolo and team are working diligently to keep the system functional.
Chris LeClair, Chief/EMD and Marshall Murray also worked with their teams to manage a few evacuations/relocations on PI, road closures, managing the Emergency Ops Center, coordinating efforts with the State and worked closely with DPS throughout the storm. Thank you
Our work on prioritizing areas in the city that could be impacted by sea level rise and storm surge following the completion of the Great Marsh Study, comes at a good time. We are recipients of the Municipal Vulnerabilities grant and will begin meeting next week to work on action plans.
General Contractor Bids: As you recall we rebid the contract as we were not required to pre-qualify the bidders as the bids were not anticipated to be over $10M, consequently instead of 5 bidders we received 7 ranging from $7.9M to $9.8M, the lowest bids were $300-$400k below. Heery, Inc., our OPM is conducting their due diligence on the lowest bidders; we anticipate entering into a contract with the CG in the next few weeks. Similarly, we anticipate closing on the property in a couple of weeks. We are awaiting the final grading work on the site. We will be meeting with MVRTA this week to finalize the operations lease.
Parking Study: John Burke has been working with Richard Jones on the technology needs for the facility; this is the final component to his scope of work and we anticipate reviewing his parking study and report by the end of the month with a follow-up meeting with City Councilors.
Zoning: Following the completion and adoption of the Master Plan, our focused can shift to the completion of the zoning rewrite and reconvene meetings of the “ad hoc” Zoning Advisory Committee (ZAC) consistent with the 2017 Master Plan recommendations.
The ZAC membership/composition will be as follows:
- Director of Planning & Development Andrew R. Port
- Zoning Administrator Jennifer Blanchet
- Building Commissioner Peter Binette
- Staff Planner Kathryn Newhall-Smith
- City Council Jared Eigerman, P&D Chair
- City Council Barry Connell or designee
- Planning Board Bonnie Sontag, Chair
- Planning Board [defer to Planning Board Chair]
- Zoning Board of Appeals Ed Ramsdell, Chair
- Zoning Board of Appeals [defer to ZBA Chair]
The ZAC will be responsible for: (i) vetting proposed zoning amendments; and (ii) recommending periodic amendments to the Newburyport Zoning Ordinance (NZO) with the broader goals of: (a) removing regulatory loopholes; (b) improving development standards; (c) improving zoning and permit enforcement; and (d) improving the efficiency and coordination of all permit-related processes.
Zoning Board of Appeals: The City is seeking two individuals for this important board: experience in development, construction, real estate, architecture, planning and land use, and/or law is important for the position. Please reach out to networks in the community as these are critical positions that need to be filled ASAP. Interested individuals should reach out to my office firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-465-4413.
Waste Management Contract: A limited RFP was issued to explore waste pricing as our contract with Mello expires in June. Prices are escalating rapidly and we saw an increase of 36%; one reason is the major problems with recycling and the passage of China’s National Sword which significantly reduces the materials that the country will now take. Negotiations are ongoing and additional information will be provided as available.
Brown School: The Newburyport Affordable Housing Trust (NAHT) had a very productive meeting about the Brown School and re-issue of the RFP. We are awaiting copy from NAHT for the bid documents. We are working on scheduling another community meeting prior to issuing the RFP.
Waterfront Trust/NRA/City: Positive movement has been occurring with joint meetings of the WFT and NRA to finalize the MOU and WFT amendments. A follow-up meeting is being schedule with the working group, settlers and attorneys followed by a joint meeting of full boards, settlers and the City.
Anna Jaques Hospital Partnership: A public hearing was held last week, Jan. 3rd by the State Department of Public Health to obtain public comment on the potential to create an integrated health care network with Beth Israel Deaconess, New England Baptist and Lahey. About 100 people attended and all public comments seemed supportive especially if the merger will increase access to services, increase access to specialist services and reduce costs. Several Councilors attended the meeting and tonight CEO Mark Goldstein will provide an update to the full City Council.
Planning Office: Final Interviews for the Senior Project Manager position in the Planning Office were completed and an offer made to Gregory Jones he will begin on Jan. 22nd. Mr. Jones has municipal, regional and private sector experience as a planner; we look forward to his joining the Planning Department Team.
Inauguration: Congratulations to all newly elected and re-elected officials. It was a wonderful event and an honor to have Governor Baker, Attorney General Healey, and Secretary of Jay Ash in attendance. It requires tremendous effort and coordination to organize an event like this. I wanted to extend a special thank you to Lois Honegger and Ghlee Woodworth and DPS staff Mike Bartlett, Scott Martin, Josh Bomba and John Hewett. Finally, our extraordinary emcee who is always so gracious, articulate and charming, Richard Jones. Thank you