January 29, 2018
Mayor Donna D. Holaday
Intermodal Facility/Garage: The City closed on the property on Merrimac and Titcomb Streets on Jan. 25th. The staging agreement is nearly complete to use the Lombardi property during construction. The City has also completed its Due Diligence in review of the lowest two General Contractor bids and have signed a Letter of Intent to award a contract with G & R Construction, Quincy, MA. To review their project history, please see www.grconstruction.net/index.php/services. KP Law is handling the bid protest of the lowest bidder.
The Traffic Study completed by John Burke is expected this week and will be shared with the City Council and public.
IAG: The IAG group met on Thursday, Jan. 25th for an update on the status of the project. Interested residents are encouraged to subscribe to E-Alerts for construction updates on the City Website accessed through News or Announcement Updates. Alerts will be posted starting in February. The next IAG meeting is scheduled for Feb. 22nd at 6:30 pm.
Brown School: A community meeting was held at the Brown School on Thursday, Jan. 25th with over 100 in attendance. The majority of residents that spoke were in favor of affordable housing but there are many issues that need to be addressed including: the relocation of a permanent home for Youth Services while retaining the gym and small office; onsite parking; and retention of the playground for the neighborhood. The City Council must vote on the disposition which should include general guidelines to be further detailed in a new RFP. We look forward to this collaborative process to move forward on this project.
Central Waterfront: The Waterfront Trust (WFT), Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA), City and Settlors met on January 22nd to review the status of the Memorandum of Agreement, land dispositions and outstanding issues. There is strong consensus on land conveyance but felt the survey needs to updated and finalized. A major discussion focused on the contamination and environmental issues as their still appears to be unknowns here and the WFT supports full assessment and action plan(s) to provide the cleanest site possible to be transferred. A follow up meeting is scheduled to with Chairs of the WFT and NRA to identify next steps and to schedule a public meeting for updates on process to date.
Schools: The search process for the NHS High School principal is in the final phases with two candidates Andrew Wulf, Administrator of Teaching and Learning at Salem High School, and Daniel Richards, Principal of Belmont High School.
The search process for the superintendent is completing interviews of select candidates and should be forwarding finalists to the School Committee for our next meeting on February 5th.
Finance: FY18 6th month report and statement from Ethan Manning, Finance Director was included in your packets. Overall are spending averages arounds 53% with some accounts higher due to budget cycle expenditures. Department Heads continue to be proficient in managing their FY18 budgets.
Budget FY19: Attached you will find our estimated Local Aid for FY19 budget based on the Governor’s House 1 Budget released last week. At this point in the state budget process with a 7.1% increase in the Charter School Assessment we will see only a 0.1% increase in net State Aid.
Within the City, Department Heads will be submitting budget narratives and priority capital items over the next two weeks as we begin compiling our FY19 budget.
Capital Planning: Although the full 5-year Capital Improvement Plan is due on April 1st to the City Council, I would like to prioritize streets and sidewalk work this year. We also have three roofs that have to be repaired this year- DPS Barn, Public Library and Fire Station on Greenleaf. DPS is working on a road and sidewalk plan that I hoped to present to the City Council by February 12th for your input. The earlier we can reach agreement, the greater the chances of locking in contractors before the start of the construction season.
SRTS: We are actively pursuing work on this $1.3M grant project with MADOT. The report can be found- www.cityofnewburyport.com/sites/newburyportma/files/file/file/newburyport_nock-molin_prelim_assessment_full.pdf. The project is on the Transportation Improvement Projects (TIP) for next fiscal year.
Hale St. ad hoc meeting: The first meeting of this new working group is scheduled for Feb. 7th at 7 PM at the Senior Community Center. The purpose of this meeting is to work on safer access for students, other pedestrians and cyclist traveling to/from the west of the city. Jon-Eric White, City Engineer has prepared a presentation on existing conditions as a starting point for discussion and brainstorming.
Opioid Litigation: The City has joined the civil suit against those responsible in the chain of distribution of prescription opiates. There are nine law firms from across the country that are organizing this litigation with the lead firm of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty and Proctor of Pensacola, Florida. This is a contingent fee suit with 25% of recovery paid to legal team upon successful litigation.
Senior Property Tax Relief: Chapter 41C 1/2
There are limited tools currently available to municipalities to provide property tax relief to seniors. Thank you to Councilor Zeid for working with our Finance Director to create the table of existing programs available. It is insufficient to address the real issues I hear, and I know you have heard from seniors during campaign season. To adopt this important provision requires a muti-step process beginning with filing the Home Rule Petition (HRP) for a special election with the legislature. HRPs can take months to reach approval and all that is before you is the mechanism to send this order to the State. Once approved, the City Council will have to vote to hold the special election as well vote on the ballot question language. There is time to address additional issues, please pass this order tonight, our seniors need relief. The changes to 41C will only raise benefits to the same 49 people, this is not sufficient. We have completed projections and believe the adoption of this program will help close to 300 seniors with estimated costs of $260,000 with $116,000 in state reimbursements. Lifelong residents are being forced out of our city despite the Senior Tax work-off program. We MUST do more to help these valued residents. Eligible seniors must live in and own their own home for 5 years and have lived in MA for 10 years.
Senator O’Connor-Ives email in support of filing the Home Rule Petition:
“Thank you Mayor for reaching out regarding property tax cost impacts on senior citizens. I agree that seniors on fixed incomes are subject to tremendous financial burdens. H4001, An Act Relative to the Establishment of a Means Tested Senior Citizen Property Tax Exemption is currently in the House and was ordered to a third reading. It is hard to say whether this bill will be signed into law, as we are in our second year of a two year legislative session. It would be worth passing a home rule seeing that there is precedence for this type of home rule passing in other communities. Whether or not this particular bill passes before the end of the session, you can pursue a home rule as a safety net. Let me know when you’re ready to move forward with this.”
Marijuana: The ad hoc group representing public safety, schools, health, mayor and City Council will meet at 10 am on Feb 6th at 10 am. We will be reviewing current status of regulations and next steps for the City.
National Grid (NG): Please see the attached notice from the State Department of Public Utilities regarding a public hearing on National Grid and the company’s performance during the October 29th weather event. The meeting will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 13th at 7 pm at the North Andover Middle School. We are also working with owners of companies in the Business Park who were impacted by this event as well as others. NG is receiving information regarding company issues over the past year and evaluating distribution, infrastructure and other issues. I am working with the Chamber and Rep. Kelcourse in addressing the issues specific to the park.
Zoning Advisory Group: Begins working again to complete the Zoning rewrite this Friday at 9 am. The goal is to complete the final draft by the end of the fiscal year. Therefore, I do not see any urgency, emergency or other reason to push through any further zoning changes at this time. The Master Plan was stalled in committee for over 9 months which did create some necessity to make adjustments/changes. But now that the Master Plan is finally passed, let the zoning rewrite proceed with the working group. I cannot and will not support any further isolated zoning changes, i.e., the Use Variance elimination.
MA Municipal Association: The annual meeting and trade show was held last weekend in Boston. Thirteen staff attended and it was a pleasure to learn Councilors Shand and Khan also attended. As always it was a very worthwhile and informative conference and the mayors missed meeting with Senator Warren and Senator Markey as they were dealing with the federal government shut down and had to remain in DC. I was also honored to receive a Distinguished Leadership Award for my role as President of the Mayors Association during 2017.