OCTOBER 28th, 2019
Mayor Donna D. Holaday
Paving Management Planning: Beta Engineering was hired by the City to evaluate the status of every public road in Newburyport. Anthony Garro, Senior Vice President, presented their findings for a pavement management program at a public meeting on October 22nd. I appreciate the participation by City Councillors and community members. After decades of declining infrastructure, we have balanced the tremendous capital needs across the city with efforts to address roads and sidewalks. In the past 10 years, we have paved over 18 miles of roads and completed over 24,000 feet of new sidewalks spending over $9.3M. We have much work ahead of us and Beta’s Paving Management Plan is a solid tool to advance this work. I would like to extend my thanks to members of the City Council for working closely with us on how to address this city-wide need and balancing our fiscal resources and maintaining our AAA bond rating. I have committed $1.5 – $2M in funding dedicated to roads and sidewalks each year through a combination of c. 90 state allocations, free cash, grants and bonding. I would encourage all to watch the You Tube presentation posted by Newburyport Media Hub. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4CTxn8SRBw&t=6s
Home Rule Petition: KP Law subbed out the NRA title work requested by the Third Reading Committee of the legislature; all the deeds have been located and a coordinated report is being compiled with a two week anticipated completion.
NRA Lot: The Park’s crew spread 260 yards of loam in the east lot, completing approximately 80% coverage there; they are installing irrigation lines on west lot and awaiting approval from DPS to connect to backflow.
Free Cash/New Growth Certification: Last week, the Department of Revenue certified the City’s free cash and new growth for FY2020. Below please find the free cash and retained earnings balances as of July 1, 2019:
Free cash, which is the City’s unrestricted balance that is used to fund capital, unexpected needs and budgetary overages (such as snow and ice), came in $273,043 lower than last year, while enterprise fund retained earnings were mainly consistent with last year’s figures. New growth, which represents growth to the tax base from home alterations/additions and new construction, came in at $732,787 for FY2020; down $253,143 from last year. In light of the slowing free cash and new growth, we remain conservative in our revenue projections should future years not prove to be as robust as what we’ve seen over the past few years. We look forward to providing you with a more comprehensive update on the City’s financials at your Joint Budget Meeting with the School Committee that is scheduled for Tuesday, November 19th at the Senior Community Center.
FY2020 Tax Rate: As a result of values and new growth getting certified by the DOR last week, it made sense to submit the tax rate and residential factor orders for this week’s packet to allow for the tax rate setting process to stay on schedule. Based on FY2020 values, the proposed tax rate comes to $12.84 per $1,000. Given that the debt service from the school projects and Senior Community Center has been fully incorporated into tax bills for three years now, combined with our lower free cash balance this year, I am not recommending we do another year of tax rate smoothing utilizing free cash to balance the tax rate. You may recall that last year, new growth came in much higher than forecasted, which allowed us to set the rate slightly below the maximum increased allowed at 2 ½%. Unfortunately, that trend did not continue into this year.
City Hall Staff Active Shooter Training: On Oct. 17th the city held two trainings for all employees on Active Shooter Training- AVOID- DENY- DEFEND. Sargent Rich Holcroft from the Merrimac Police Department led the training providing a basic understanding of response as well as additional resources and protocols for our follow up.
Low St. & National Guard Building: We held a conference call with DCAMM (MA Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance) this afternoon (10/28) to understand the series of next steps to move forward with the potential purchase of the Emergency Operations Building.
Nov. 8th: DCAMM receives bids from appraisers; the City selects the appraiser and a 30, 60 or 90 day timeline and forwards a check to DCAMM.
MA Historical Commission: DCAMM is required to submit and building for sale, lease or other disposition to MHC for review and comment. Unfortunately, the Emergency Ops building was included in MHC’s Inventory of Historic and Archaeological Assets of the Commonwealth but understand that the Powder House and main Armory should only have been included. DCAMM will develop a Memorandum of Agreement with MHC to resolve this adverse effect; they see this as a housekeeping step.
Nov. 11th: Starting the week of Nov. 11th, for 4 weeks legal notice will be posted in our local paper regarding the intent of the National Guard to sell the property for a municipal purpose; this is followed by a public hearing and a subsequent 21 day public comment period.
Notification to Public Officials: on or around Nov. 11th this notification will be sent to Public Officials regarding the potential sale; there is a 120 day period allowed but we may sign a waiver reducing this time frame to 30 days.
21E testing: We are working with DCAMM on obtaining a license agreement with the Military Division to enter the property and complete a series of borings for an environmental assessment.
Cutter Fire Station: Preliminary estimates and a conceptual design were presented by Winter Street Architects on October 15th. There are many site constraints with the property and the preliminary estimate is $8.8M. Consequently, we have asked Winter St. to look at city property adjacent to the 113 entrance to the Little River Trail as an alternative site. The advantage of this site we could potentially build a 1 story building with a flat roof that could accommodate more solar panels, and a one story building would not require an elevator. The Cutter Station coudl also remain in operation if we built a new station at this site and eliminating the cost of temporary quarters for the station and equipment. We could potentially see a reduction in cost close to $2M. The next steps would be to work with Winter St. on the survey of the potential alternative site.
Vaping Forum: School Committee held a forum on vaping on Monday, Oct 21st with presentations by Dr. Cynthia Grondin, a leading research expert; Cathy Riccio, MSN Supervisor of Health Services for NPS; Dr. Gary Gastman, Executive Director and Christine Turner, Directory of Ambulatory Services from Link House Link House. A joint panel discussion followed with Public Safety, Youth Services, and Health.
Our Neighbors Table: Annual breakfast and fundraising was held on Oct 22nd at Blue Ocean. ONT under the leadership of Lyndsey Haight has been focusing on food insecurity in Newburyport for over a year and supplies food to Community Service on Summer St. and is working with other non-profits.
Rail Trail: PCP cleanup was awarded to the low bid NRC East Environmental Services of $237,997. Excavation target is late November. Once the cleanup is completed the trail will be re-opened while we continue to apply for grant funding to raise the trail.
Please remember to vote next Tues., Nov. 5th!