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April 4, 2014

Public meeting called for waterfront plans

Chairman resists call to dissolve board

(Continued)

However, Tom Salemi, chairman of the NRA, who attended the meeting Wednesday night, said that he does not necessarily agree with the notion of dissolution.

The subject was not discussed at length, though Salemi at one point said, “I don’t want my silence at this meeting to indicate my agreement” with putting an end to the NRA.

City Hall observers say the matter of dissolution is moot for the moment, since a quorum of the NRA would be required to take any action.

In other developments at the Trust meeting:

Geordie Vining, senior project manager of the Department of Planning and Development, said work on Phase 1 of the bulkhead overhaul project is on schedule to be completed on May 16. The bulkhead is the metal structure along the riverside of the city’s central boardwalk; it prevents the river from undermining the boardwalk.

On a separate matter, Vining said that planners have encountered a potential problem in developing an improved harbormaster headquarters on the boardwalk. If the new headquarters is to be equipped with water and sewer, construction managers will have to run pipes from Water Street to the site.

The most practical route would be through property owned by the New England Development company, but executives there have been reluctant to grant permission, city officials say.

Bill Harris, a land-use lawyer and longtime waterfront watcher, said he will seek federal “closeout” funds relating to restoration of the area.

Harris said that years ago the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development offered grants to communities that were finishing major projects that aided the community. Newburyport was recognized for pioneering preservation efforts and Harris said he will see if grants are still available.

“This is not low-hanging fruit,” said Harris. “There are no guarantees.”

He said grant money could be used to bring in clean soil to land areas that were historically fouled, and possibly to provide flood hazard protection to low-lying land.

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