July 15, 2019
Mayor Donna D. Holaday
Senior Property Tax Relief: We began discussing the important need to provide property tax relief for senior homeowners over 18 months ago when the City Council voted to support a Home Rule Petition for a municipal election to let voters decide if we should adopt C. 41C ½. Our Finance Team, especially Finance Director Ethan Manning and Assessor Jill Brenan, have conducted extensive research on adoption of this program. We have the opportunity to provide assistance to approximately 200 senior-owned households in our city with annual property tax reductions ranging from $531 to $1,062. These are our seniors who are on fixed incomes juggling taxes, sewer/water bills, medical bills and medications and other monthly needs. If adopted, the state provides a $500 reimbursement for up to 232 households. The estimated bottom line to the city is $87,000. The City is in a strong financial position and to absorb this cost. The option of raising the exemptions in our current program 41C limits assistance to only 53 households. The Council on Aging voted unanimously to support 41C ½ and is ready to begin a campaign to educate our community on this important program. Please let the voters decide on this very important program to our seniors who deserve the opportunity to remain their homes.
Brown School: The joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Board is scheduled for Wednesday 7/17 at 6:30 pm to address the Brown School Overlay District. It’s too soon to rezone the process without completed our feasibility study for Low Street and as proposed has many restrictions for any bidder redeveloping this site through an RFP process. This includes mandating an old gym in need of renovation remain, identifying the number of residential units, and parking to highlight a few. It has been a long process but what major project in our city has not taken years to finalize? Maintaining youth services and residences on this site is too congested and we attempted that process already; Youth Services was very clear this could not work. We have a potential site on Low St. that would provide a much better location and access to Youth Services. We have been working with the State and National Guard for about 18 months on this process; currently we are awaiting the Commissioner of Public Safety’s signature on TR1 form and then we can move forward on the appraisal of the site. This is critical to initiating the feasibility study.
This building also provides the city with an opportunity to provide desperately needed affordable housing/rental units. Adopting an overlay district must wait until the receipt of the next round of RFPs to evaluate potential options, affordable housing for seniors, mix of affordable and market rate or other options.
Newburyport Redevelopment Authority: The Home Rule Petition is due for the 3rd reading and the Chair of this committee is requesting a site visit next week. The NRA is meeting tonight to address the Open Meeting Law violation that the city filed with the Attorney General regarding their lack of posting and agenda of land transfers. We are having a difference of opinion in the procurement law violations that the city filed with the Inspector General; the NRA’s attorney believes they legally had the right to transfer the filled tidelands to the Waterfront Trust.
Resiliency Plan: The Ad Hoc Resiliency committee is working on the final draft of the City’s Plan and hopes to have the document ready to present by September. Thank you for your support of funding additional consultant time to complete this.
Emergency Management: Chief LeClaire, Emergency Management Director, organized our annual tabletop exercise on June 26th that brings together City, Police, Fire, MEMA, Health, DPS, COA, Cataldo Ambulance and Anna Jaques Hospital staff to work through a hypothetical festival incident and respective department/agency response.
Seabrook Nuclear Plant: C-10, the non-profit watchdog has hired Victor Sauoma, Ph.D. a renowned expert in Alkali-Silicon Reaction (ASR) who presented an update on the ASR status on 6/28. He has submitted testimony to the Nuclear Regulatory Committee for the Evidentiary Hearing they will be holding here at City Hall during the week of September 23rd. This is a closed hearing. If City Councilors would like a copy of Dr. Sauoma’s presentation, please let me know.
Cataldo Ambulance: The City has renewed a 3 year contract with Cataldo/Atlantic ambulance adding a provision for a contract re-opener should the City move forward on Fire-based EMS.
Charter Review Commission: Per the Charter, Article 9 General Provisions, Section 9-6, The Council President and Mayor have selected the 9 member commission. Mayor’s appointments: Bruce Menin, Dennis Kennedy, Juliet Walker, Connie Preston, Sheila Taintor; President Connell’s appointments: Charlie Tontar, Heather Shand, Sharif Zeid and Ed Cameron. Councilor Tontar will serve as chair. Thank you commission members for volunteering your time for this important endeavor.
Parks Department: Congratulations to Lise Reid and Donna Irwin Co-Chairs of the Rhythm and Roots Festival. Despite the weather requiring moving the final performances inside the Firehouse, it was a very successful event for the Parks Conservancy.
Plummer Springs Bridge: West Newbury residents really want the bridge repaired and re-opened and are planning to submit a MA Works grant would cover approximately 50% of the cost for a new bridge. The cost of the new bridge is estimated at $2.5M. This is a much lower capital project for our City but we will send a letter of support for their application. We have been working cooperatively with Angus Jennings, Town Manager and West Newbury staff with our consultant team BSC; they apologized for the misleading article in the Daily News.
Rail Trail: It is with disappointment that I report that we were not successful in grant awards for the MVP or Coastal Trail applications to complete work on the section of the Rail Trail behind the Wastewater Treatment Facility. However, with CPC funding and a potential additional Brownfields grant from MVPC, we anticipate being able to move forward on PCB clean up. More details on this approach will be forthcoming and we are also hoping that our submission to the State for the Environment Bond Bill funding will move forward once the legislature makes decisions between two bills.
Permitting Software: Company representatives have presented three potential projects for the City move permitting online for Planning and Building Departments. A decision will be made shortly on the program that best meets the City’s needs today and in the future.
Cutter Fire Station: The initial assessment by Winter St. Architects on the status of the Cutter Fire Station determined that the existing station has numerous issues and a new station should be built. Their report was forwarded to all City Councilors.
Suffrage Centennial Kick- Off Celebration: I was pleased to be invited by Mayor Walsh to Suffrage Centennial Kick-off on June 25th at Faneuil Hall. Elected women officials from across the State attended and shared stories from their communities about suffrage leaders.
Rest in Peace Mayor William Carpenter– 61 year old Mayor of Brockton and father of 5 passed unexpectedly on July 3rd. I joined mayors from across the state and other elected officials to celebrate his life and legacy on Friday July 12th.