Haverhill Moving Forward
Mayor Jim Fiorentini
With 2005 rapidly coming to a close, I wanted to reflect with you some of our accomplishments this past year.
Moodys and Standard and Poors both raised our bond ratings to the highest levels in several years. I am proud of this tremendous vote of confidence by our bond rating agencies. This means real savings for our taxpayers. Last month, we refinanced millions of dollars of our outstanding debt, saving around $300,000 for our taxpayers.
This year we began the process of fixing some of our school buildings that had been neglected for decades. The boiler at the Crowell School was replaced, the roof at the Tilton School was fixed, and the council authorized a bond to replace the roof at the John Greenleaf Whittier School.
Our most important progress in school buildings was at the high school, which, only two years ago, was on the verge of losing its accreditation. With the help of a great high school building committee, we moved forward on our plans to rehabilitate the school. Our science labs are being repaired, and next spring, our children will have fully functional science labs for the first time in forty (40) years. Windows and doors are being replaced, the air conditioning and ventilation system are being repaired, and, generally, the entire building is being rehabbed. Our top goal is to make certain that our children continue to go to school in a fully accredited, state of the art, high school.
This year marked the return of our Code Enforcement teamsa group of health inspectors, building inspectors, and community police officers who work together. The code team has been very effective in getting buildings and portions of neighborhoods cleaned up.
Health care reform was a top priority for me when I took office two years ago. Working together with our unions and with our insurance advisory committee, we were able to achieve the lowest increase in the entire state in health care costs.
The savings in our health care system, together with the assistance of our legislative delegation, helped us to balance our budget for two years in a row with a single layoff and without an override or debt exclusion.
In the public safety sector, 2005 also marked some successes. Our Bradford Fire Station, partially closed only a year ago, remained open full time. We were able to obtain grant money to purchase two new fire trucks, and, for the first time in years, there will be fire trucks in the Ayers Village and Rocks Village fire stations.
In the area of police protection, we added additional patrols to hot-spot high crime areas, and for the first time, joined a Gang Task Force to put additional resources to bear on gang violence. As of October, violent crime was down 30% over the past two years.
Perhaps our greatest success came in the area of economic development. Our plans for a 21st century retail zone in Haverhill are moving forward. Working together with the City Council, we rezoned a portion of Haverhill near the highway, and the Lowes Home Improvement project has received preliminary approval to move ahead.
The plans we made last year to rezone the downtown have resulted in the first ever artists lofts in our downtown area. With the help of our federal delegation, particularly Congressman Martin Meehan, we obtained the largest public works grant ever awarded to the city of Haverhill to build a new parking facility downtown.
Next year, 2006, we will continue to face very serious challenges. We continue to face a structural deficit brought on by the financial collapse of the Hale Hospital and by rising health care costs. Our problems are great, but so is our will to overcome them. Working together as a team with our city council, the school committee and our legislative delegation, we are determined to continue to move Haverhill forward.
Jim Fiorentini, Mayor of Haverhill
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