NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 14, 2013

Council to pick a new comrade tonight

Newburyport City Notebook
Dyke Hendrickson

---- — The agenda for tonight’s City Council meeting includes the selection of a new councilor to replace Kathleen O’Connor Ives, and numerous City Hall insiders say the choice will be former councilor Steve Hutcheson.

Look at it this way: He has six years experience on the council, and he knows the issues and procedures. Hutcheson, an engineer with an MBA, is also well liked at City Hall.

There are seven candidates, now that onetime councilor Larry McCavitt has withdrawn (in part, because of a death in the family). It’s likely any of the seven would make a good councilor but Hutcheson would appear to be the seamless choice.

Another item on tonight’s agenda is a second reading of a much-diminished ordinance to create a Local Historic District.

Councilors tonight might also consider aspects of a demolition-delay measure and possible preservation protections for the downtown business district.

Members of the Harbor Commission have shaken up the waterfront-planning crowd by revealing they will be reviewing designs from several architects to double the size of the harbormaster’s headquarters on the east end of the municipal wharf.

The commission wants to offer more to boaters, like the vessel-friendly communities of Rockport and Marblehead, they said. Enhancements could include bathrooms, showers, lockers and perhaps classroom facilities.

Also, officials of the nearby Custom House Maritime Museum are interested in seeing if there is an opportunity for them to have a small amount of exhibit and/or marketing space.

Not for the first time, the harbor is emerging as a popular center for boaters. Harbormaster Paul Hogg registered about 1,450 vessels last year, and that does not include the growing number of craft tied up in Salisbury. An even larger number of vessels visited from other harbors.

The commission, in the view of Your Scribe, is actually providing an educational service: While the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority is consumed by land issues such as auto parking and condo development for its nearby property, the Harbor Commission is essentially putting up the tell-tales to say that those visiting by boat are also important to the economy and future of the city.

More will be heard about the commission plan, but right now it is adding to the intrigue of what the riverfront will look like in coming years.

Harbor Commission Chairman Brad Duffin, incidentally, is the only commission chief who puts a time-line on his agenda for action items. Minutes will be reviewed at 7:05, for instance, and the harbormaster’s report will be delivered at 7:35. It seems to work.

Ed Ramsdell, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, has a different style: that of the folksy professor. Ramsdell starts most meetings by explaining the role of the ZBA, commenting on the agenda and informing members of the audience if and when they can speak. That works, too.

The ZBA, incidentally, last week approved the demolition of a residence at 14 Russia St. The term “demolition” is a politically charged concept here, revolving around the concern that old structures will be wantonly torn down. But this seven-room home, circa 1850, was said to be falling down; its foundation was crumbling. There was no objection from any quarter about removing it, so demolition appears to work at least at some level.

On the subject of development, local brewers Bill Fisher and Chris Webb have been receiving the equipment to permit them to launch a brewery at 4 Pasture Road, in the business and industrial park. The duo has raised close to $1 million to get their operation going, and plan to offer a stage and seating (2,000 square feet) for live music as well as a tasting room once they start pouring “in early 2013.” They will offer Newburyport Pale Ale, Plum Island Belgian White and Green Head IPA.

NMN (names make news): As part of a second reading for appointments at the City Council session, Ann Lagasse, Moseley Woods Commission; Robin Reath-Graves, Parks Commission.

On the agenda for re-appointment: Joseph Brown, Waterfront Trust; Karen Wiener, Housing Authority; Ruth Allen, Cultural Council; Robert Uhlig, Community Preservation Act Committee.

On the agenda for appointment: Eric Andrukaitis, Haverhill, police officer; Megan Muldowney, Haverhill, police officer.

Meetings this week

Tonight

River Valley Charter School Search Committee, 6:15 p.m., 2 Perry Road.

Waterfront Trust, 7 p.m., police conference room, 4 Green St.

River Valley Charter School Committee on Trustees, 7 p.m., 2 Perry Road.

City Council, 7:30 p.m., City Council Chambers.

Tuesday

School Building Committee, selection subcommittee, 4:30 p.m., 70 Low St.

Conservation Commission, 6:30 p.m., City Council Chambers

Wednesday

Board of Water Commissioners, 5:30 p.m., 16A Perry Way.

Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, 7 p.m., public library.

Planning Board, 7 p.m., City Council Chambers.

River Valley Charter School Development Committee, 2 Perry Way.

Thursday

Bartlett Mall Commission, 6 p.m., public library.

School Building Committee, 6:30 p.m., mayor’s conference room, City H all.

Board of Health, 7 p.m., City Hall.

Historical Commission, 7:30 p.m., City Council Chambers.

Parks Commission, 7:30 p.m., City Hall auditorium.

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Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached at 978-462-6666, ext. 3226 or at dhendrickson@newburyportnews.com.