April 29, 2019
Donna D. Holaday, Mayor
57 Low Street and new NYS Facility Feasibility Study: On April 10th the Armory Commission voted unanimously to approve the surplus of roughly 2 acres of property at 57 Low Street to the City of Newburyport; the City has been using this site as the Emergency Operations Center. This was a major step that will allow us to acquire this property, with the goal of constructing a new Youth Services Building. We will be working with the State Department of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance (DCAMM) to finalize the sale over the next few months. I am asking City Council tonight to appropriate $65,000 to complete the survey and environmental (wetlands delineation) requested by the National Guard. We received a proposal today from Meridian Associates to complete this survey work at $8,200. The majority of the funding will address a feasibility study to locate a new Youth Services Center on Low Street. While I feel confident that the Low Street site is ideal for a new Youth Services, this study will analyze the details for the new center against the feasibility of keeping Youth Services at the existing former Brown School site, as well as the feasibility of a retaining the core of the building or building new. This is an important study that will provide much needed clarity on the future of Youth Services and the redevelopment of the former Brown School site. I’m looking forward to learning the results of a feasibility study and encourage you to approve this appropriation.
Preliminary assessment of anticipated costs for Youth Services:
41 C ½: Finance Director Ethan Manning and City Assessor Jill Brennan have put together a great presentation on the 41C ½ program and the administration’s recommendation for the November ballot question. Adopting 41C ½ could provide much-needed relief as soon as this upcoming fiscal year and we believe it’s the best program available to help many more Newburyport seniors with their property tax bills. I understand there are concerns that 41C ½ does not have an asset limit, but setting one locally through a Home Rule petition would disqualify the City from receiving any state reimbursement, which is critical in terms of making this program financially feasible for the City. There’s also a means tested senior citizen property tax exemption bill has been filed in this legislative session. It has been filed in past sessions with no success, and there’s been no indication it will gain any traction this legislative session. We could wait years for a means tested bill, but our longstanding senior residents need relief now. If 41 C ½ is passed by residents at the November ballot, this program would be available to qualified residents for fiscal year 2020. I’m asking the City Council to vote as soon as possible on the parameters so we may put this question on this ballet and begin educating the general public on this program.
Bonding capacity and debt outlook: In advance of upcoming discussions on the FY20 budget and CIP, Ethan Manning, Finance Director has assembled a Debt Service Projection document. Please note even with projects that are currently in discussion stages e.g., NHS roof and science labs addition, our debt over the next 10 years will be at 6%, well below the recommended industry standard of 8-10%.
Gift Acceptances: Council on Aging Van: The Friends of the Council on Aging were able to raise $25,000 towards the purchase of a new van for the Newburyport Council on Aging. I thank the Friends for their fundraising efforts and the Newburyport Society for the Relief of Aged Woman and the Frank L. Currier Charitable Foundation for their generous contributions.
Band Uniforms Gift Acceptance: Thank you to Port Performing Arts for their gift to the City of $2,190 to complete the purchase of new uniforms for the Newburyport High School Band. We appreciate your generosity.
Disability Swings: On your agenda for tonight is the approval to transfer funds from Free Cash to purchase additional disability swings for younger children for the City’s playgrounds. The Council will recall that the City purchased 7 accessible swings suitable for children ages 5 through 12 with help from the Commission on Disabilities and from Newburyport parents of children with disabilities. This transfer request will purchase 7 additional swings designed for children ages 2 to 5 and will make our playground swings even more accessible for children of all ages. Thank you again to the Commission on Disabilities and to the parents for all your work to bring these much needed swings to our playgrounds.
NRA Home Rule Petition: Senator DiZoglio filed the Home Rule Petition bill on April 12th (Bill S.2202). It was referred to the Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government on April 18th. On April 29nd the House concurred and filed HB 4160.
Paving Plan: DPS opened bids for paving and sidewalk construction on Friday. Contract negotiations should be completed in the next day or so. We anticipate work beginning on High St., Pleasant St. Toppans Lane and Cashman Park the week of May 6th and continuing through early June. Notifications to all impacted by the work will occur prior to commencement of any milling and paving. Phase II including Merrimac St. and Spofford St. sidewalk will begin after July 1st
Additionally, crews are continuing to address potholes (weather dependent) and a second 4 ton hot box will be rented this week. Our General Foreman has been assessing all bad trenches and larger problem areas on secondary roads throughout the city. A small milling machine, ‘zipper’ will be rented and on Monday – Thursdays, problem areas will be milled followed by paving on Fridays. Street sweeping and catch basin cleanouts/repairs are also underway.
PI Air Vac Pumps: New pumps have arrived and replacement process began today and will continue through May 8th. No disruption in service is anticipated but a backup bypass plan is in place should issues arise.
DPS Personnel: Dave Shaw, Sewer Collections, started April 1st and Julie Spurr Knight, Business Manager started on April 22nd.
New Ventures Crow Lane Landfill Settlement: I am pleased to report that the Superior Court Action was settled on April 22nd after five years for this latest case. The following must be completed by June 30th 2019 or additional contempt proceedings will be filed:
- purchase and install a new gate with lock at the Landfill Site entrance;
- permanently remove the trailer and any cinder block or other foundation materials from the Landfill Site;
- permanently remove the leachate tanker truck from the Landfill Site;
- permanently remove blasting mats and materials stored on Colby Farm Lane;
- place and install at the Landfill Site a new, 40-cubic-yard roll off container filled with unused pre-treatment media to serve as the Landfill gas pretreatment system for the Landfill gas control system and maintain on-site, in its present location, the existing 40-cubic-yard roll off container as a backup;
- replace the existing Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) and modem unit on the enclosed flare skid with a new PLC and modem unit;
- replace the existing blower with a new blower for the enclosed flare that bums off residual Landfill gas following treatment by the pre-treatment system;
- replace the existing flame arrestor for the enclosed flare with a new flame arrestor;
- replace the existing “knock out” condensate tank on the flare skid with a new knock out condensate tank;
- make operational, by repairing or replacing if necessary, the alarm system on the underground condensate storage tanks; and
- remedy the source of erosion and runoff to the access road to the top of the Landfill and return the access road to good condition.
Nashua Wastewater Treatment Plant/ CSO Field Trip
On April 16th Matt Coogan, Chief of Staff, Jamie Tuccolo, DPS Deputy Director and I went to Nashua to meet with Mayor Jim Donchess and his staff to discuss his City’s efforts to eliminate CSOs. We had a very productive meeting with Nashua DPW Director Lisa Fauteux, Wastewater Superintendent David Bucher, and Plant Operator Noelle Osborne. We learned that Nashua has invested over $150 million over the past 15 years to update its sewer treatment and reduce CSOs. They have taken an interesting approach: rather than separating storm drains from sewer lines, as they are in Newburyport, Nashua has invested in storage and treatment. This “hold and treat” approach stores heavy volumes during wet weather events and allows the plant to time to catch up and treat water rather than releasing it untreated through a CSO. I was impressed and encouraged with the efforts Nashua made to eliminate their CSOs in the Merrimack. Ms. Fauteux will also introduce us to her counterpart in Manchester, NH so we can learn about the COS work underway there. I invited Mayor Donchess and his staff to be a presenter at the upcoming Merrimack River CSO Conference on June 7th that I am organizing with Senator DiZolgio’s Office and the Merrimack Valley Planning Association.
Merrimack Valley Planning Commission Semi-Annual Meeting and School Funding: Sen. Jason Lewis, Chair of the Education Committee, and Rep. Tucker is the Co-Chair, presented on school funding at the semi-annual legislative meeting with local officials on April 8th. Since this meeting the House submitted their FY20 state budget, which projects that less state c. 70 funding will be diverted to the Charter School from our school district than in the Governor’s House 1 budget.
Parking Garage Ribbon Cutting, May 13th
I am pleased to announce that we will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of the Parking Garage on Monday, May 13th at 4:30 PM. Governor Baker will be attending and we scheduled this event to accommodate his availability. It will probably be another week or so after the ribbon cutting that the garage will officially open. I hope the City Councilors are able to attend; formal e-invites will be sent this week.
MA 6th Congressional District Town Hall: Congressman Moulton will host a Town Hall meeting at the Senior Community Center this Sunday, May 5th from 3 to 4:15.