January 27, 2020
Mayor Donna D. Holaday
Items on the City Council Agenda
Fire Station 2 Feasibility Study Transfer – The Administration is requesting a transfer of $50,000 from Certified Free Cash to fund an expanded feasibility study on the replacement of the West End John F. Cutter Fire Station (Station 2). The expanded feasibility study will develop schematic-level plans for several scenarios in order to provide a more comprehensive comparative review of alternatives. The City can then make an informed decision on a preferred option and the consultant will develop an additional level of detail and generate a detailed itemized cost estimate with a professional cost estimator, which will provide a basis for discussion of funding for full design and construction. Included in this expanded scope is the feasibility of constructing a new Station 2 facility at 95 Storey Avenue, and whether this new facility could be designed to reduce additional future capital costs by accommodating the Fire Department’s administrative offices and a flex space for emergency operations and training. Fire Chief LeClaire and Senior Project Manager Geordie Vining have provided a detailed memo and accompanying documentation in your council packets, including the proposed scope of services. We feel that this is the best approach going forward and my staff is available to answer any questions as you consider this transfer.
FY2020 Mid-Year Budget Report – Our Finance Director Ethan Manning has provided a Mid-Year Budget report for this fiscal year. Mid-year expenditures were at 47.8% of the budget for General Fund, 50.7% for the Water Enterprise Fund, 41.5% for the Sewer Enterprise Fund and 57.8% for the Harbormaster Enterprise fund. We anticipate the potential for operating budget transfers for a few line items by year end, including Fire Department Overtime, Snow and Ice, and Legal. There’s more detail in the report provided by the Finance Director.
Short Term Rental Legislation – Thank you Councillors McCauley and Tontar for working collaboratively with our staff to draft legislation that will address Short Term Rentals in the City. It’s important that our community adopts clear, concise, and consistent local rules and regulations to ensure that these rental units are safe, are in compliance, and are not creating a nuisance. Furthermore, while short term rentals help bring visitors to our community that support our local economy, we need to be conscious of how the development of these units affects our rental and affordable housing stock. We look forward to further review of these proposals and focus on the details during the subcommittee and the public hearing process.
- City Solicitor – KP Law: As per the recently revised City Ordinance, I have appointed KP Law to serve in the Office of City Solicitor. KP Law has served as the City’s legal department since 2004 and the firm provides the City a team of attorneys with significant experience working with municipalities throughout the Commonwealth. Included in your agenda packet is a memo from our primary attorney from KP Mark Reich, who will be available to attend meetings as you consider this appointment.
- Finance Director, Ethan Manning and DPS Director, Tony Furnari: It gives me great pleasure to re-appoint both Ethan Manning and Tony Furnari to their respective positions in my administration. Much of the City’s successes can be directly contributed to the leadership we’ve had in our Finance and Public Services Departments. Ethan and Tony exude a high level of professionalism and accountability for their departments and I look forward to continuing to work together in the coming years.
- Governor’s Budget Proposal (House 2) and FY2021 Budget: Governor Baker Governor Baker released his recommendations for the FY2021 budget (House 2) last Wednesday. I have included in this update a copy of Newburyport’s state aid estimates based on the Governor’s recommendations, our Cherry Sheet. Chapter 70 funding is estimated to increase by $122,166 or 2.9%, and UGGA (Unrestricted General Government Aid) is up $75,831, or 2.8%. In addition, the change in the Charter School reimbursement is favorable and the assessment is also decreasing. We hope that these numbers carry through the state legislative budget process or even improve.
- 9 Titcomb Street Parking Agreement: There’s been recent coverage of a lease agreement between the City and a private land owner by the Daily News and I’d like to take a moment to make some clarifications. The agreement provides the City the use of an empty lot at 9 Titcomb Street as parking for police and City Hall staff. It allows for the Police Department to use fewer spaces in the Green Street lot. It also provides additional parking for City Hall staff, opening up more spaces in the parking garage for visitors and permit holders. New England Development owns the 9 Titcomb and leases the lot for the City to utilize for a modest fee. The parcel had been previously used as staging area during construction of the parking garage. New England Development will continue to pay property taxes based on the assessed value of the parcel. Unfortunately, there are discrepancies in how the agreement is worded. I accept responsibility for this oversight and we are working with our legal team to make those corrections to align with the terms of the agreement.
- Clipper City Rail Trail Clean Up: Upon further testing it was discovered that contaminants remain in several areas of the project. Additional soil removal will be necessary before the clean-up is certified by DEP. We are awaiting laboratory analysis of additional sampling which will guide the extent of the next phase of excavation required. We still anticipate this project will be completed this winter and we have contingency included in the project budget that at this point we believe will be sufficient.
- NRA Dissolution Update: Legal Counsel for the House Committee on Bills in the Third Reading is still reviewing the deeds and accompanying documentation we submitted through Representative Kelcourse’s Office on January 10th. I will notify Council as soon as I hear more on this review and a future House vote.
- 57 Low Street DCAMM Appraisal Update: DCAMM is still in the process of setting a purchase price for the City to acquire the auxiliary building and surrounding 2.17 +/- acres of land. DCAMM will offer the parcel to the City at a significant discount from market value, and from what we understand they are reviewing the appraisal in order to set that price. We hope to have the official purchase price by the beginning of next week.
- MEMA Coordination Plum Island: We continue to work with MEMA on other state agencies on addressing the serious conditions on Reservation Terrace which needs attention immediately. The dune system there has completely eroded away, and we have held several meetings with MEMA, DCR, and our state legislative delegation on forming near term actions that could provide some relief. Recently we had a meeting with MEMA and DCR to develop a plan to implement emergency protection measures and to submit a formal request to the Baker Administration for funding and resources that could help us get through this winter. Stockpiling sand near Reservation Terrace to repair breaches to the remaining dune system would be part of this request.
- Pavement Management Plan: The Pavement Management Plan is being finalized in the coming weeks and we will work on setting a public meeting to review the plan in February.
- High Street Paving Update: Hi-Way Safety’s insurer has contacted KP Law to set up a site visit inspection for the status of High St. with their in-house engineer. The site visit is tentatively scheduled this week.
- Charter Review: The Charter Review Committee has begun meeting to review the charter. Thank you again to the committee members who have volunteered their time for this important matter. My administration has been compiling suggestions on some minor changes to the Charter to help make our government run more efficiently and look forward to working with the Committee.
- Broadcast and Recordings of Planning Board and ZBA Meetings: This month NCM Hub began broadcasting Planning Board and ZBA meetings on their cable channels and providing recordings of these meetings on their PortMedia YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/cuDz6TJhq2A
Important Meetings and Events
- State of the Commonwealth – I attended Governor Baker’s State of the Commonwealth on behalf of the City on January 21st. It was encouraging to hear that the Governor’s priorities are transportation, school funding, housing and climate change.
- MMA Annual Meeting – Several Department Heads and City Councillors attended the annual Massachusetts Municipal Association Annual Meeting this past weekend. There were many interesting and informative sessions and I look forward to staff sharing their takeaways from the workshops.
- Rotary Luncheon Speaker – I was invited to speech at the Rotary Luncheon on January 21st and provided the group an update on City projects.
Upcoming Meetings and Events
- Complete Streets Award Ceremony Fitchburg: I will be traveling to Fitchburg tomorrow to officially receive our $400,000 Complete Streets grant award from the Lieutenant Governor. To clarify, this funding will cover constructing the segment of Phase 3 of the Rail Trail that includes the intersection of State Street and Parker Street as well as 500 feet along Parker Street. This grant does not involve any changes to the Rt 1 Rotary, although we are coordinating this project with MassDOT. MassDOT is planning on completing a modest redesign to the Rotary that will help continue the Rail Trail from the intersection of State and Parker safely around the Rotary and across Route 1. We are in the process of scheduling additional meetings with MassDOT now that we have the construction funds to continue our coordination.
- Merrimack River District Commission Meeting in Newburyport: The City will be hosting the next District Commission Meeting at the Auditorium at City Hall on Thursday, February 6th. The Commission has hired Brown and Caldwell who will be on hand to provide an overview and details of their scope of work.
- Councillor Meetings with Mayor on Priorities: Thank you for the Councillors who have met with Matt Coogan and I this month. It’s been very helpful to learn about your priorities in the coming year. I look forward to our collaborative work in the coming year. If we haven’t had met yet, I encourage Councillors to please set a meeting through Donna M. in my office.
- State of the City: I will be delivering the State of the City Thursday evening, February 6 at 7 PM in the Senior Community Center. This is a public meeting and open to all.