March 9, 2020
Mayor Donna D. Holaday
The City’s Health Department and our Public Safety Departments have been actively coordinating with our state, regional, and local partners to make sure we have the latest information on guidance, best practices and recommendations as far as preparedness. The City’s Health Department and Public Safety Departments have been taking steps to prepare for a potential local outbreak of COVID-19. In addition, EMTs and Paramedics from our local ambulance contractor Cataldo are trained to respond to infectious diseases.
The State Department of Public Health and the CDC have extensive information and facts about COVID-19 available through their website. The City’s Health Department website provides links to these pages, and we encourage residents to visit these sites to learn about prevention and receive updates. The state of Massachusetts is updating information about COVID-19 cases and residents subject to quarantine in Massachusetts. Visit the MDPH webpage on COVID-19 quarantine and monitoring in the Commonwealth. The CDC is tracking confirmed cases across the United States. For the latest on case counts, visit the CDC’s website on COVID-19.
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. This includes limiting the spread of germs by hand washing frequently, avoiding touching your eyes nose and mouth, covering your mouth with a tissue or inner elbow when coughing or sneezing, and sanitizing items that are frequently touched. In addition, the state is advising individuals to self-quarantine if you or a family member has traveled to Italy or was in an area heavily affected by COVID-19.
This week we are holding an internal meeting with staff at Anna Jaques Hospital to continue coordination and education. Also, on Friday, I will be joined by Health Director Frank Giacalone, Council on Aging Director and Sean Gallagher, Superintendent to record a program on NCM Hub that outlines ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the measures be taken by the City. The recording will be available on the City website.
Updated information will continue to be posted on the Health Department website and on our social media channels as it becomes available.
Items on the City Council Agenda
Harbormaster Fees Proposal – The Harbor Commission and the Budget & Finance Committee worked collaboratively over several meetings to make adjustments to proposed fees increases. In particular, a portion of the fee increases at the Plum Island parking lot will be set aside in a designated account to address resiliency issues on Plum Island. The proposed fee changes will simplify the fee structure, bring the rates more in line with the value the City offers boaters and provide the necessary income to support the Harbormaster’s Enterprise Fund. Thank you all for working together.
Station 2 Design/ Feasibility Study Revisions – Thank you to my Staff and to Councillors for working together over several Budget & Finance Committee meetings to revise the scope of the feasibility study. Our goal is to produce a study with enough information to make the best decisions possible collectively for our Fire Department facilities. The revised scope will have our consultant take a closer look at the existing site at 153 Story Ave and consider a larger footprint, evaluate an alternative site for Station 2 at 95 Story Ave, and include a detailed evaluation of Fire Headquarters at 0 Greenleaf Ave. In addition, the feasibility study will include a public process for the general public to comment on the proposed designs. The replacement of Station 2 remains the priority, but with this feasibility study we will be better able to plan ahead for much-needed renovation of Headquarters as well. Please support the transfer to complete the revised feasibility study.
MA School Building Authority (MSBA) Statement of Interest (SOI): SOI begins the process for Newburyport to enter the MSBA process for new science labs and roof repair at Newburyport High School. The School Committee unanimously approved the SOI on March 2nd. Steve Bergholm, Facilities Director, will be available to address questions during your committee review. Please note this is time sensitive and must be acted upon on the March 30th City Council meeting.
Home Rule Petition on Dissolution of NRA – I’m pleased to report that our Home Rule Petition (H3698) was approved by vote in a Formal Session of the State House of Representatives this past Thursday, March 5. It’s now onto the next step which is an approval by the State Senate in a formal session. We have been in contact with Senator DiZoglio’s Office and expect the vote to happen within the next several weeks. We are very close to the Dissolution of the NRA.
Building Commissioner Peter Binette – I have accepted the resignation of our Building Commissioner, Peter Binette, effective March 13. Peter has been with the Building Department for the last 7 years, first as the Local Inspector and for the last several as Commissioner. During his tenure the City experienced a tremendous increase in permit fees and construction, and Peter successfully managed a very busy department very efficiently. We wish Peter luck in his new position as Building Commissioner in neighboring Newbury. Bob Armstrong, our Local Inspector, will serve as the interim Building Commissioner and we will be posting the job opening shortly.
High Street Safe Routes to School Meeting – On Friday March 13, Planning, DPS, and members of the School Department will be heading to District 4 Headquarters for a pre-construction conference with MassDOT officials and the awarded contractor, RM Pacella. This is an introductory meeting and we will have more information to share in the near future as far as project timeline, traffic management plan, and communications and notifications during the project.
Complete Streets/ Route 1 Circle – On Thursday March 12 I will be joining the Planning Department to meet with MassDOT and officials and their engineering consultant to coordinate our Complete Streets project at the intersection of State and Parker Streets with the MassDOT’s Rt 1 Rotary upgrade project. The Complete Streets project will create a protected rail trail from the Town line on Parker Street through the Parker St and State St intersection with improvements to the intersection. MassDOT will continue the trail at this point over to Rte. 1 and across to Parker Street. We will have more information on the timeline of both projects shortly after this meeting.
Rt 1 Circle Water Main Loop Project – DPS is beginning a project that will loop a water main at the Rt. 1 Rotary beginning this Wednesday. There will be temporary disruption Wednesday morning for a few hours. The project will last 4 to 6 weeks and there will be few if any additional disruptions in water service. This project will connect a loop that will improve water quality and terminate the use of a bleeder.
Youth Services Feasibility Study Update: Staff reviewed the RFQs for the next step of the Youth Services Feasibility Study and we will be contracting with Studio MLA Architects- www.studioMLA.com . The firm has impressive experience with adaptive reuse and community and recreation centers, most notably the recent Teen Center in Brookline. We look forward to working with them and will provide a timeline for this phase of the project shortly that includes a public process. We anticipate a final report by the end of the fiscal year.
Joppa Boat Ramp: Upgrades to the Joppa boat ramp began last week funded through state Department of Fish and Game and paid for through the federal Wallop-Breaux Fund. The construction is expected to be completed by the end of April.
Upcoming Meetings and Events
- 5-Year Pavement Management Plan Public Meeting, Tuesday March 24th: We have scheduled a public meeting for BETA and DPS to present our 5-Year Pavement Management Plan. In addition, we are offering Councillors an opportunity to meet with BETA and DPS to review the plan on April 2nd. Matt Coogan will be reaching out to set up timeslots for Councillors.
- New England Coastal Resiliency Workshop, March 18th
- Youth Services Asset Awards March 19th
- The ACEC/MA Engineering Excellence Awards Competition, March 26th: Recognizes engineering achievements that demonstrate the highest degree of merit and ingenuity- Environmental Partners is being recognized for their work on the Wastewater Treatment Facility renovations.
March 2nd: I enjoyed reading to several Bresnahan Kindergarten classes in honor of Dr. Suess’ birthday and National Read Across America Day.
March 4th: Link House opened the Home for Women in Recovery at 141 Low St. The program will provide 18 much needed beds in a beautifully redone home with tremendous community donations and support.
March 6th: Pettengill House held their annual fundraiser at Blue Ocean to support their extensive social service and family programs.