September 30th 2019
Donna D. Holaday, Mayor
Brown School Overlay District: As I have previously stated, I would strongly prefer we re-issue the RFP prior to establishing the overlay zoning. However, I understand this zoning gives a sense of the scope of a future potential project to the neighborhood. We have a complex site with several competing interests including affordable housing, on-site parking and youth services.
We have been working with the National Guard and DCAMM for over two years on the surplus of the Low St. building. To date, the sale of the building is now in the hands of DCAMM where the state polling was completed with no interest in the site and the municipal polling will be completed by Oct. 11th. DCAMM will be soliciting proposals to complete the appraisal and we are hoping we will have the cost of the site within the next 4-6 weeks. Recall that there is a municipal price of $.25 on the dollar vs. full market value. Once we have this data we can make an informed decision on whether or not this is feasible to move forward.
Merrimac St. Sidewalks: We have been fielding some complaints from residents impacted by the sidewalk work and we are working to provide additional field support to increase communication. In addition, several residents have cited a City ordinance stating sidewalks would be brick or concrete. It is important to understand with the funding we were able to allocate this year to roads and sidewalks, if we replaced all the poor asphalt with concrete we would have completed only 20% or less of the sidewalks on Merrimac St. Our goal was to make the sidewalks walkable and safer; asphalt was replaced with asphalt, brick with brick and concrete with concrete.
Bonding for future roadwork: Ethan Manning, Finance Director provided a late file communication regarding the serious fiscal implications to a 10 year bond and coupled with the challenges of operations and contracting, this is not a prudent financial approach. We cannot risk the downgrade of our AAA bond rating. The more prudent approach is to bond year-by-year which I will support but I ask we wait to make any decision until the public meeting we have organized with Beta Engineering to present their findings of the evaluation of every road in the city. The meeting with be here in the City Hall auditorium on Oct. 22nd at 7 pm.
EEE Threat: As a result of increased concerns and positive tests in Essex County, Superintendent Gallagher and Athletic Director Kyle Hodsdon have revised all evening sporting events to avoid high risk time periods. Please see the school website for schedule changes. Additionally, our Health Department has posted information on EEE and precautions we should all take.
Newburyport Redevelopment Authority & Home Rule Petition (HRP): Our HRP continues to be vetted in Rep. Speliotis’ 3rd Reading Committee with our Planning Office responding to their questions. KP Law has a title firm pulling all the deeds requested and we anticipate this process to be completed in the next few weeks.
Supplemental Budget: The following are notes I provided to B&F for their committee review
Public Bathrooms: As you are aware we have a great need for public rest rooms downtown. We made an agreement with the Harbor Commission when they began working on the Transient Boater Facility that if they built two public rest rooms with the facility, city DPS staff would take responsibility for upkeep. The two new positions for downtown took longer than anticipated to hire and we have OT costs and supplies that must be covered. The account had historically been in general administration because for years we contracted with Link house to complete this work but with nips, needles and other, it became too risky for the residents in recovery and the DPS was charged with upkeep. If you would like line item to be under DPS, we are happy to accommodate.
Travel/Training: When I was Chair of B&F, the CC was very concerned about travel and training accounts in all the departments without good oversight. The decision was made by the CC to retain only required trainings for certification in department budgets and all other trainings/professional development and travel would be approved/denied by the mayor’s office. This has worked very well. We have maintained the same budget for many years and it is very important for the skill development of staff.
I do not understand the comments that this is a ‘slush fund for the mayor. I use my personal vehicle for official City business on and daily basis and my stipend accounts for extensive wear and tear on my car –it is similar to the stipends contracted for all department heads. If I travel to Boston for Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) or State House meetings, there are times I cannot obtain free parking at the state house and must pay to park in a garage. This totals a few hundred dollars annually and the travel and training account cover the cost of traveling to and attending these important meetings on behalf of the City. This year the account also covered several City Councillors who attended the MMA annual convention. It is difficult to identify in advance the trainings that would advance professional development as needs and opportunities are very fluid. I ask that you please restore this account- you have received details of the FY19 spending and I will justify every single item.
Schools: As I stated previously, the Superintendent, Leadership Team and the School Committee dedicated hours to the FY20 school budget and it was the first budget in years that was unanimously approved the SC. We have identified an additional training and counselors that would assist the schools this year but it is very difficult to add new positions in the midst of the school year. Please approve the vetted request by the Superintendent and approved the SC.
Water/Sewer legal: the zeroing of this budget was problematic, I assume this occurred because of the General Fund legal fund but as enterprise accounts they are prohibited by state law from using city funds, and they must sustain their budgets strictly from their fees. Sewer, in particular, will be under EPA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) extensive review and requires legal support. There are also other issues and contract reviews that require legal support. Please restore the funding here.
SenaTOUR: Senator Diana DiZoglio, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Businesses, organized a regional tour for Senators including Newburyport. Thank you to all involved including President Barry Connell, Matt Coogan, Chief of Staff, Paul Hogg, Harbormaster and Frank Cousins, Executive Director of the Chamber. The event was well-received by the senators and they also received a crash course in CSOs while touring the river with our Harbormaster.
Parks Department: Our annual meeting with the Gayden Morrill Foundation was held on Sept. 20th with $110,000 in requests to be reviewed.
MMA Mayors Meeting: Mayor Vigeant of Marlboro hosted the meeting and Gov. Baker was our keynote. The main topics were the vaping ban, housing and school funding. The new school funding bill is being reviewed in the Senate and we are working with Sen. DiZoglio’s office to get the impact of the new formula for school funding for our district.
Merrimack River District Commission: The Commission held their second meeting today in Haverhill with a strong turnout of state, federal and local officials and representatives. Julie Wood, Deputy Director of the Charles River Watershed Association shared their flagging system that tracks CSOs as well as algae blooms. Newburyport will service as the pilot to initiate a flagging system; more details will follow but we would like to see this up by next spring. Dr. Jacquie Ashmore and Pauliina Swartz from the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Boston University also provided a presentation on how they can begin working with the Commission and collecting data on health, environmental and economic regarding CSOs. A representative from NH Congresswoman Annie Kuster’s office also spoke about federal legislation on CSO notification. President Barry Connell and Councillor Tontar attended the meeting today.