October 13, 2020
Mayor Donna D. Holaday
MVP Grant for Berm and Revetment: Thank you to the Public Utilities Committee for quickly reviewing the grant acceptances and transfer request for this critical resiliency project. With the full City Council’s support tonight we can officially accept the $1 million MVP grant for the Berm and Revetment Project behind the Waste Water Treatment Facility and begin working towards kicking this project off over the winter. The City Council can also accept the $100,000 MassTrails grant, release the $150,000 of CPA funds and approve the transfer request tonight to cover the remaining cost of the $1.7 million project. Thank you again and I ask that you please support the grant acceptances and transfer request tonight.
Reservation Terrace Shoreline Stabilization: With great planning and coordination, DPS and our contractor T.W. Excavating were able to construct the double row of super sacs across Reservation Terrace over the course of three days last week. Thank you City Council again for approving the $50,000 to help fund this project. We also received $25,000 from DCR and donations from Plum Island residents. The new super sac wall will provide much needed temporary protection for this upcoming winter storm season.
Resiliency Plan: I’m happy to report that the Resiliency Plan has been finalized. Thank you to the Resiliency Committee for all their hard work putting together this important plan. It will be available for Councillors by the next City Council meeting October 26th.
Halloween: We have been coordinating with our neighboring communities and reviewing the CDC guidelines to ensure that our residents take the utmost precautions for their Halloween celebrations. Trick-or-treating will still take place this year between 5:30 PM and 7:30 PM the evening of the 31st, and police chiefs in our region have all coordinated on this. Traditional trick or treating is strongly discouraged, however, should residents partake in trick-or-treating, they are encouraged to take precautions , wearing mask and gloves, be outside and individually drop wrapped candy in bags. Those who do not wish to participate in Trick-or-Treat are asked to shut off their outdoors lights as an indicator. Residents should take precautions if the do choose to participate in trick-or-treat, including wearing a mask or face covering, observing good hygiene, including hand washing and use of alcohol-based sanitizers, and refraining from touching your face.
Working with the City of Amesbury and Town of Salisbury, we produced a guidance document that outlines the safest ways for residents to celebrate Halloween. This document has been adopted by many surrounding communities in Essex County as well. I want to emphasize that trick-or-treat is a higher risk activity, even when taking the precautions as listed above. Costume parties with groups gather are also high risk and strongly discouraged. We urge our residents to follow the CDC guidelines and take all precautions and be safe celebrating Halloween this year.
Supplemental Budget Request #1, City Council Salary: On your agenda tonight is an Order to accept Supplemental Budget Request #1. At the September 29th City Council meeting, the Council voted to reduce the City Council Salary line item to an amount that essentially cut the salaries for Councillors entirely for the remainder of the fiscal year. Section 2.4 of the Newburyport City Charter covers the process for City Councillors to increase and reduce their salaries, and it is clear that such action would not go into effect in the existing City Council term but rather the next City Council term. Going into an election year, I do not believe it was the intent for the City Council to eliminate the salaries for future City Councillors but rather forgo salaries for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2021.
Order 216 restores the salary line item for City Councillors. If there are Councillors who do wish to forgo their salaries in fiscal year 2021, I suggest that they not accept salaries individually.
I will likely be submitting a supplemental budget request prior to approval of the FY2021 tax rate, but it was important to submit this particular item independently.
Purchase of 57 Low Street and Youth Services Feasibility Study: In your Council packet tonight is an Order and accompanying documents for the City to purchase and acquire a two-acre portion of 57 Low Street from the National Guard. This parcel includes the auxiliary building, a portion of which had been used by Emergency Management and is currently being used by various City departments, predominantly the Parks Department. This acquisition has been an effort several years in the making and will afford the City much needed additional space for City operations at a significantly discounted municipal rate of $220,000. I request the City Council review and approve the acquisition, including the associated transfer, appropriation, and acceptance of the attached deed. Our timeline with DCAMM anticipates a closing and transfer of the deed to this property by December 31, 2020. Thank you in advance for your consideration. I will be available to discuss this property and its acquisition with you at your convenience, along with Director of Planning & Development, Andrew Port, and Director of Municipal Finance, Ethan Manning.
Our consultant Studio MLA is finalizing the feasibility study and will make a final presentation in a public forum most likely by the third week of November. The study included the feasibility of either building a new Youth Services facility at the aforementioned 57 Low Street site or a renovation of the Youth Services facility at the existing former Brown School property. The NYS Feasibility Study will provide extensive detail on existing conditions at both the 57 Low Street Site and the former Brown School. The intent of the NYS Feasibility Study was to generate conceptual plans for renovation or relocation of NYS at both sites, and estimated costs therefor, for comparison purposes. The study and its findings will provide City officials with options for adaptive reuse and upgrade of both sites, along with an analysis of the benefits and constraints each property has for use by NYS.
Irrespective of the NYS Feasibility Study, and the City’s preferred home for NYS operations (TBD), it would be advantageous for the City to move forward with acquisition of the 57 Low Street Site from the National Guard. Regardless of whether NYS is relocated to 57 Low Street Site or is maintained at the Brown School, 57 Low St affords the City a viable site at an ideal price on which to construct new municipal facilities or maintain existing operations.
Building Department Changes: The Building Department is in the midst of undergoing significant personnel changes and we have made arrangements to receive support from our surrounding communities and their inspectional services team as we work through this transition. We are currently accepting applications for the Building Commissioner position as well as the Local Building Inspector position. In addition, the administrative assistant position will also need to be filled in the near future due to a retirement. In the interim, we will be supported by the inspectional services staff from the towns of West Newbury, Merrimac, and Newbury. Former Building Commissioner Gary Calderwood is also available. With these arrangements, we have adequate coverage to continue processing building permits and conduct inspections in the near term while we work quickly to fill the permanent open positions. We see these personnel changes as an opportunity to bring on new staff with the skills and expertise to fully implement our new online permitting software.