Haverhill Mayor Jim Fiorentini's Monthly Newsletter

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 Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini announced the appointment of a new Water Supply Task Force to plan for Haverhill’s future water needs. The task force has been assembled to develop plans for adequate long-term water supplies for Haverhill. The task force will determine whether or not there is a need to have further water sources, and, if so, what those sources should be.

In announcing the appointment, Fiorentini noted that while water consumption rates have remained fairly stable over the past twenty years, there was no guarantee that they would remain stable forever. “We need to be proactive, not reactive,” said Fiorentini, “and we need to plan today to make certain there is always enough water for tomorrow.”

The mayor appointed the following people to the new task force:

• Robert Ward, acting director, Haverhill’s Water and Waste Water Department
• William Pauk, former director, Haverhill Water and Waste Water Department
• Brendan O’Regan, Bradford resident and director of the Newburyport Water and Waste Water Department
• Brent Baeslack, head of the Haverhill Environmental League
• Krystine Hetel, Haverhill city councilor

Fiorentini said that the first charge of the Task Force would be to determine if the water supply is adequate for future growth, or if the city should increase its water supplies.

Water usage studies have shown that despite a population growth over the past twenty years, usage has remained stable over the same period. This is due to increased conservation efforts by residents and businesses, a great leak-protection program that saves millions of gallons yearly, and weather factors—the wetter the weather the less water that is used.

“The message of the past twenty years is that conservation works. Although our population has grown, our water usage has remained stable. However, we don’t want to wait until a drought and then realize our resources are limited. We want to make educated decisions now for the future of water resources for the city,” stated Mayor Fiorentini.

If the task force feels that additional water supplies are needed, the task force will examine other potential water supply sources including the Merrimack River (directly or indirectly) and Johnson’s pond in Bradford or from some other source.

For the past two years, the city’s environmental consultants, Camp, Dresser and McKee, have been looking at whether it would be feasible or necessary in the future to draw water from the Merrimack or from Johnson’s Pond. “I do not know if we are going to need to draw water from the Merrimack,” said Fiorentini, “but we need to look at this now, not when we have a crisis, and we need to have the public involved in this decision.”

Fiorentini indicated that there would be public hearings and an opportunity for public input prior to making any recommendations.

This is Our Chance

For decades, the large old shoe factory buildings on Essex Street, Locke Street, Duncan Street and Walnut Street have been vacant, sitting there on the fringes of our downtown area. Suddenly, there are companies, big companies that want to invest millions in these buildings as housing. It might never happen. However, it might happen and be the spark that ignites the renaissance we have been hoping for in Haverhill.

The problem is both parking and parking regulations. Our regulations require that before you can develop any building you must provide 1.5 parking spaces for every unit. If we stick to that standard, not all the buildings can be developed. Some of the developers tell us that they can sell the units if we do not require as much parking. I have filed a proposal with the City Council to allow those buildings to be developed with a requirement that the developers provide one space per unit. It is a temporary fix until the parking garage is built downtown in a few years.

Urban planners once looked upon parking requirements as critical. Now, more planners are looking at parking requirements as a regulatory roadblock. In The Mythology of Parking, urban planners write that requiring a downtown developer to put in an abundance of parking can mean the death of the project, and requiring large amounts of parking in downtown residential areas can mean the death of your downtown.

Decades ago, the cry was that if only we had more parking, Merrimack Street would boom. We got the parking deck on Merrimack Street, and, not coincidentally, the Merrimack Street retail zone died. People do not go downtown because of parking. They go downtown because of restaurants and shops.

In the new book, The High Cost of Free Parking, urban planner David Shoup points out that requiring developers to put in large amounts of so-called free parking greatly increases the cost of the units, and means that many old factory buildings will remain vacant.

The Department of Housing and Community Development recommends that instead of thinking of minimum parking requirements, we think instead of maximum parking requirements: restrict developers from building in parking. They recommend a maximum of one space per unit.

A number of other Massachusetts communities have now relaxed their parking requirements to redevelop their downtown areas. These include Worcester, Lynn Cambridge, Quincy, Somerville and Lowell.

I have filed a proposal to change our parking requirements in the factory zone, which is on Locke Street, Locust Street and Essex Street, to a requirement of one car per unit. Here are some questions that come up with my proposal:

Where will the people who live in these units park? In the space assigned to them. Many of these units are studio and one-bedroom units. Studies have shown that people who live in these units often have one car, sometimes no cars.

Will people park in the downtown area? No. My plan only works with enforcement. We can not allow people who buy condominium units on Locke Street, Locust, or Essex to park during the day in our retail zone.

What if a unit sells to a couple and they have two cars, not one car?

Not many people with two cars are going to buy a unit with one parking space. If it becomes a problem, then we can always make portions of Locke and Locust Street resident-only-parking after 6 p.m. No one is parking on those streets at night right now. We also have a parking lot on Locke Street that holds 186 cars and is almost completely vacant.

Will anyone buy a condominium that does not have two parking spaces attached to it?

A survey of condominium sales in California said that people preferred the units without any parking, and for one good reason: parking is very expensive (see Rethinking Residential Parking). This should be, in any event, a market-driven decision, not a zoning-driven decision. If the investors in the old factory buildings believe they can sell their units with one space per unit, that should be their decision, not ours.

United States Conference of Mayors

This week I’llbe heading off to Washington for the United States conference of Mayors. Senator Kennedy has graciously agreed to meet some of us for breakfast to hear our local concerns. I intend to press upon him the need for relief from the Hale debt, and for money to dredge the Merrimack River.

High School Renovation Project on Track

Several years ago, the city was placed on school accreditation probation because of the condition of the building. The city decided to float bonds for $27 million to do a total rehabilitation of the high school. Starting in 2009, the state will pay 62% of the cost of the repairs, but until then, the city is on its own.

The high school rehabilitation project remains on target. All of the doors and windows have now been replaced by new energy efficient, thermal panel windows and doors. The front entranceway to the school has been fully redone.

The boiler system has been replaced; by the summer, the ventilation system will be fully replaced.

One of our prime concerns was the condition of the high school science labs. Over the forty years that the high school has been in use, most of the science labs had become damaged or unsafe to use. Thus far, eight of the science labs have been fully renovated, and the remainder will be done this spring. This semester, children at the high school will have fully renovated state-of-the-art science labs for the first time in decades.

We are proud of the progress made at our high school. We anticipate that the entire project will be completed in late 2007 and the school removed from accreditation proba-tion in late 2007 or early 2008. In the meantime, Haverhill High School remains a fully accredited high school.

Pay on Line

Our third-quarter tax bills are due Feb. 1. You can pay on line, right from your bank account, with no additional fee. You can pay using a credit card, for a small additional fee. You can also pay your water and waste water bills on line. Paying on line saves you time and postage, and saves us processing time.

To use the new online payment system, log onto the city’s Web site: www.ci.haverhill.ma.us and click on the link to Unibank online.

If you feel that your property has been over assessed, log onto our web site, www.ci.haverhill.ma.us and go to the assessors department. You can download an abatement form on line, but you must sign it and mail it, or bring it in to the assessor’s office.

While you are paying on line, please consider making a payment to the education and scholarship funds.

Myths and Facts

Myth 1: We are growing so quickly that we are rapidly running out of water.
Fact: We are using less water than we did about ten years ago, and about what we did twenty years ago.

Myth 2: Our schools are bursting at the seams and we may need a new school in Bradford soon.
Fact: Our school population has declined in recent years. If population goes up, we have three schools that are unused and could be brought back on line: the Cogswell, the Wood and the Smiley.

Myth 3: The city has cut the school budget by millions of dollars.
Fact: In the past two years, the city has increased its budget for public education by $3.5 million.

Myth 4: Crime is out of control because of budget cuts.
Fact: Crime in Haverhill is down over the past two years. Violent crime is down by 23% in two years. No one has laid off any police officers. In any event, there is no direct correlation between the number of police and the amount of crime.

Short Subjects

Read our smaller, weekly newsletter on line. You can subscribe to that newsletter by sending an email to
city-of-haverhill-subscribe@lists.boygenius.com.

Our Brownfields Task Force, under the leadership of Atty. Ross Povenmire, continues its excellent work. Last year, the Task Force received a grant of $400,000 to test areas in the city for pollution. This year, the Task Force has recommended a licensed site professional to us to test the sites.

We have vacancies on a number of boards and commissions. If you are interested, please send a letter outlining your interests and a resume to mayor@cityofhaverhill.com.

Lynn Murphy and the other members of the Cultural Council have done a wonderful job of exploring new ways to promote culture in our city. This week we will be announcing that the Council will provide some funding to keep our festivals going, including the Christmas stroll and the Italian festival.

Speaking of the Christmas stroll, Haverhill lost a real friend this year in Laurie Chase. Without her, there would not have been a Christmas stroll.

Your Feedback Wanted

Last month, we asked you how we did in plowing the streets. The answer, and it was a surprise to me, was that many of you had concerns. I am not making excuses, but it was a flash storm and extremely difficult to manage.

Your comments helped us to change our email response system. Several of you pointed out that weekend emails about snow plowing and sanding often did not result in service until the following Monday. We have now asked the person on duty at the highway department to check all emails every two hours. (Until that happened, I spent a weekend answering emails and phoning them into the highway department.)

This month, help us to set budget priorities. Send me an email at mayor@cityofhaverhill.com and tell me what areas you feel should be given more attention in the next budget.

Tell us also about potholes. We are nine weeks from spring! Spring to the city is when we can start filling potholes on a permanent basis. (In the winter, we can only put in a temporary patch.) Tell us where the potholes are so that we can start mapping them out now.

Trivia

The Forest City Development Company of Cleveland and New York is interested in the Stoeller building. What was the Stoeller building called before it was called the Stoeller building? (There are several correct answers.)

Until next month, if I can be of service, do not hesitate to call me (978-374-2300), or email me (mayor@cityofhaverhill.com), at any time. If you prefer, stop by my office hours on Tuesday from 3-4.

 *Send your questions comments to ValleyPatriot@aol.com
The February, 2006 Edition of the Valley Patriot
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