June 25, 2020
Mayor Donna D. Holaday
Re-opening Our City:
I would like to extend my thanks to the City Council and Licensing Board for working collaboratively with my office to expedite the approval of expanded outdoor seating for restaurants and expanded spaces for retailers. Our City Clerk Richard Jones played a crucial role in coordinating applications and routing to our ad hoc committee for approval and forwarded to the License Board Members.
There has been much positive community support for the expanded outdoor seating. We need to make upgrades to these outdoor spaces and plan to install parklets that create greater uniformity and enhance the beauty of our downtown. Please refer to the parklet cut sheets from Bison I sent earlier today.
Marketing Plan: we are working with Matter Communications on a plan to re-open our city. As we roll this out more information and updates will be provided to the City Council. Our basic messaging- “You bring the mask, we’ve got ____________” (the food, culture etc.).
FY21 Budget: DLS sent an advisory this week that municipalities should follow the Fiscal Year 2020 Cherry Sheets for local aid to be distributed July 31st and August 30th. We are beginning work on the final 9-month budget for FY21 to be submitted to City Council by mid-August. We do not expect much guidance in terms of numbers at this point for the rest of the fiscal year.
You have probably seen the large numbers of pink slips issued to over 2,000 teachers across the state; we have worked very hard to predict a school budget that preserves and enhances the progress our schools have made over the past many years but there are real concerns about implementing the DESE guidelines released today- report attached. Superintendent Gallagher has organized teams that have been working on the three options- all students back, hybrid model or remote. Parents will be included in these planning meetings. DESE indicated budgets will be level services plus, but there is no indication of what that means. It will be challenging to address and implement these guidelines.
MIIA Insurance: I am very pleased to report that MIIA’s Board of Directors determined that with very low claims filed during this past quarter that credits are being given to municipalities. Ours is about $500,000 and we are required to address the 75/25 split. Employees will receive an insurance holiday for one pay period in July to cover the 25% contribution. HR has inquired our dental carrier if there will also be a credit.
City Hall Re-opening: All offices are fully staffed and we are continuing to develop and implement all the required safety protocols. DPS has constructed barriers with plexiglass windows to separate employees from the general public areas, and they are wrapping up this work with the City Clerk and Treasurers office. They have also and moved and adjusted workspaces to ensure social distancing for employees. Staff training has been provided for safety protocols and sign off by every employee is required. PPE orders are slowly arriving. Custodial staff are working diligently on getting ready for full opening to the public. City Hall will open to the public by appointment only starting Monday, July 6th. We will then monitor for a few weeks and make adjustments needed to unlock the doors and allow walk-ins during limited hours. There will be strict protocols upon entry and every visitor entering city hall must sign in for contact tracing. We have had no positive cases for City Hall Staff and I would like to see that pattern continue. I do not see any changes in remote meetings through the summer and most likely through September.
Plum Island: The Mobi-Mats for beach access were placed this morning. Unfortunately, DCR had delayed their roll out. I have also been working closely with Sec. Theoharides and our legislators on a plan to protect our water/sewer system and homes on Reservation Ter. We are working on temporary flood gates that can be permitted. We need an engineering assessment of the selected wall and I am awaiting a proposal from GZA who we have great respect for and worked with in the past. Our legislators sent a letter of support to Gov. Baker, Lt. Gov. Polito, Sec. Theoharides and DCR Commissioner Montgomery. They also requested funding support as estimates at this juncture are between $40K-$50K. More information will be forthcoming.
Merrimack River District Commission: The steering committee has shifted to remote meetings and Kirk Westphal of Brown & Caldwell has done a great job leading the effort. If anyone is interested I can forward the last series of slides from the steering committee group.
Newburyport has been identified as the pilot for the CSO notification system and that system is slowly moving forward. An article was in today’s Daily News. As the components of testing, website, apps etc. come together; I will provide an additional update.
Plummer Springs Bridge: This bridge straddles W. Newbury and Newburyport and although very few residents of Newburyport seem to be concerned about its closure to vehicular traffic, W. Newbury residents desire it to be opened again. Newburyport received small bridge grant funding to evaluate the deteriorating structure and replacing it with a new bridge. W. Newbury was awarded a MA Works grant to cover a portion of the construction. Please see the MOU and supporting information.
High St.: KP Law has finally received a response from HI-Way Safety’s insurance company and we are working to set up a conference call to hopefully come to a settlement arrangement.
Roads & Sidewalks: There are still no definitive answers on our c.90 funding after positive movement in both the House and Senate. But the House and Senate are now both on record in support of the $300 million funding level for the reimbursement program, a 50% increase. Both bodies must now work out their differences before passing a bill that includes Chapter 90 funding. I will report back as soon as we have definite information.
Open Space Plan: The City’s Open Space Plan update is now in final form to be submitted in time for review by the Department of Conservation. It was important to meet tomorrow’s submission deadline for summer review because it qualifies the City to apply for DCS funding for our parks and open spaces. We are specifically interested in applying for a PARC grant that would help fund the Bartlet Mall Northwest Corner Restoration Project, which will include a fully accessible inclusive playground. That application is due next month. The planning process included various stakeholder meetings and interviews, two public Zoom meetings, and a survey that received over 450 citizen responses. We will be submitting the Open Space Plan Update to City Council this summer.
NRA Dissolution: As mentioned, on Friday Governor Baker signed bill signed H4545, An Act to dissolve the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority and transfer its lands to the city of Newburyport. Thank you Representative Kelcourse and Senator DiZoglio for shepherding the bill through the House and Senate. We have reached out to the NRA Chair and the NRA attorney on next steps to close out any outstanding invoices and to facilitate a smooth transition. Also, in coordination with the Council President, I will be establishing a Waterfront Park Working Group to begin the process of building our waterfront park. The first step for this group would be to release an RFP to procure a team to design and engineer our waterfront park. We assume a design process beginning this this fall and extending into next spring, followed by a final bid package, permitting and funding for construction. I envision the working group to consist of a diverse representation of all stakeholders.
Code of Ordinance: As per City Charter, we are required to conduct a 5-year review of our Code of Ordinances, and this year we are to appoint an ad hoc committee with five appointees from the Mayor and four appointees from the City Council President. President Eigerman and I are awaiting acceptance of requests to serve and we anticipate the ad hoc group being finalized next week.
Class of 2020 Commonwealth Heroine: I am proud to report that our Youth Services Director Andi Egmont was honored by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Woman by becoming a Class of 2020 Commonwealth Heroine. Congratulations, Andi, we are all so proud of all the work you do for our community!