, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 18, 2013

No answers yet to problems with PI water system


This is a tough moment for the team at City Hall. Political folk hate to add to their meticulously groomed budgets.

But that is the order of the day. Holaday and her team must come up with money for lawyers, independent engineers and unbiased testing laboratories.

Yes, the city might get the money back when all is sorted out.

But for now, cash will be flowing out the door in the hope of learning why there are major flaws in the system — and who is responsible.

Holaday is doing the right thing. But it can’t be easy.

Meanwhile, City Council President Tom O’Brien must be having an “I told you so” moment as this investigation plays out.

O’Brien — who might be considered the council’s pragmatist — voted against the project at almost every financial turn.

For instance, during a vote for a key funding bill in July 2000 that approved an appropriation of $9.3 million, the vote was 10-1 in favor. The lone negative vote was that of O’Brien.

Of course, those pro-project councilors have left the building. The City Council in 2000-2001, under Mayor Lisa Mead, included ward representatives Bruce Brown, John Norris, Karen Kelly, Erford Fowler, Brenda Swartz; at-large councilors were Al Lavender, Audrey McCarthy, John Pramberg, Bert Reed and Joseph Spaulding. And O’Brien.

If there is any consolation for Holaday and the present council, it is that they were not in office when the project was discussed and funded.

But that may be the only source of (faint) relief at this challenging moment in the city’s history.


The following meetings are scheduled this week and are open to the public:


Teamsters 170 meeting, 4 p.m., City Hall.

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


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

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


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

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

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


Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached at 979-462-6666, ext. 3226 or

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