, Newburyport, MA

October 9, 2013

Council accepts $100K grant for brownfield cleanup

Defers action on Regional Veterans' Services district

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY — The City Council has voted to accept a $100,000 grant awarded to Amesbury by the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission to help fund the city’s brownfield cleanup of the Lower Millyard, which is scheduled to begin later this fall.

The council approved the grant unanimously last night toward the end of its meeting, also moving to table a pair of bills pertaining to a proposed Regional Veterans’ Services district while passing a resolution to create a state-authorized cultural district for the Upper and Lower Millyards.

The MVPC grant was approved following some brief remarks by Community and Economic Development director Joe Fahey, who provided the council with an update on where exactly the Lower Millyard project stands logistically at this point in time.

“It’s a quick timeframe, and it’s one we should be able to meet,” Fahey said. “As far as costs, we will absolutely have definitive costs when we get the bids back in mid-November.”

Fahey explained that the two local permits necessary to move forward have been received, and the Chapter 91 waterways permit has been incorporated into the Riverwalk project.

He added that the bids for the brownfield cleanup will be due in November, and it is expected that a construction period for the cleanup will be established from December through March, and then construction of Heritage Park will occur between April and June.

Two residents spoke up on the issue as well. Rick Bartley, who owns property in the Lower Millyard, urged the council to accept the grant so that the project can continue to move forward, while Jane Snow of 44 Fern Ave. cautioned the council about getting in too deep into the project and finding out later that the project will cost more than expected.

As part of the grant, Amesbury is also eligible to receive a loan through the MVPC, which it could conceivably do if the Lower Millyard project winds up costing more than expected. Councilors made a point to emphasize that accepting the grant wouldn’t force the city into a loan, and rejecting the grant would be tantamount to throwing away free money.

“There’s no Trojan horse saying if you accept this you have to borrow X amount of money,” said District 4 Councilor Rob Lavoie.

The council was originally expected to vote on two bills that deal with a proposed creation of a Regional Veterans’ District that would include Newburyport, Amesbury, Salisbury, Merrimac and Newbury, but the bills were tabled until next month so that issues that have arisen in Salisbury and Newbury could be worked out.

One item that wound up taking up the majority of the meeting was a vote on whether to accept a Quitclaim deed for Quimby Lane. A group of residents requested that the city table the vote to put pressure on the developer, who they said hadn’t provided the level of services required.

Specifically, they argued that he’d done an inadequate job plowing the road the previous winter, and they had to drag their trash and recycling to the corner of Lions Mouth Road in order for it to be disposed of. Quimby Lane has not yet been accepted by the city and therefore doesn’t receive services from the city like city-owned streets do.

The council ultimately moved to accept the deed anyway, arguing that delaying wouldn’t really put any pressure on the developer and the best course of action would still be to try to get the street accepted before the winter.

The last item discussed by the council was a late file proposed by District 2 Councilor Christian Scorzoni, who proposed the creation of a state-authorized cultural district for the Upper and Lower Millyards.

According to the resolution, “Upon the designation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council will provide a framework for how to assemble a public and private partnership, how to develop district goals, how to map the relevant assets within the district, how to identify public resources and planning tools that complement the district and practices for marketing the district.”

Because the proposal was a resolution, the council was able to vote on it immediately, and it was approved unanimously.