, Newburyport, MA

January 30, 2013

Mayor seeking $1.57M for Millyard project

Hopes to have costs reimbursed by state, feds

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY — As Mayor Thatcher Kezer’s plans to revitalize the Lower Millyard continue, next month he will seek $1.57 million from the City Council in order to get state money designated for the project.

Kezer has been in discussions with state and federal officials over getting the entire $1.57 million Lower Millyard price tag covered by federal and state funds, but in order to receive any grant funds, the city has to move first before being reimbursed later, he said.

“The challenge is the city has to make the first step on the commitment to doing this project, and then all of the state and federal monies will flow behind it,” Kezer said.

So far roughly $1 million has already been designated for the Lower Millyard project by state and federal agencies, and Kezer said he is highly confident that more will be secured in the coming months.

Should the City Council approve the appropriation, the city would be reimbursed for at least $1 million and possibly more depending on whether more external funds could be brought in.

“What happens is we have to appropriate the funds for the whole project in order for the state to give us the money to do it,” Kezer said.

Kezer said his hope is that none of the $1.57 million will wind up being paid by local taxpayers, but he recognized that the councilors would likely have questions about whether the additional money can be brought in and what would be done if it can’t be.

Kezer will be meeting with each councilor individually over the coming weeks to go over all the latest Lower Millyard details, and two councilors will soon be chosen by council President Anne Ferguson to join the state’s Brownfield Support Team (BST) that is helping coordinate the project.

Because the Lower Millyard has heavy soil contamination stemming from decades of industrial use, the site has a litany of permitting requirements and cleanup needs that make doing anything an extremely complicated endeavor.

In order to help redevelop these properties, the state set up the BST as a means of bringing all the necessary state and federal agencies together to cooperate and get projects like the Lower Millyard done.

Amesbury is one of five communities to have been designated for BST assistance this year, and right now the team is working to come up with a plan.

The current phase of the Lower Millyard project includes permitting, design work, site cleanup, the boat launch, the new Carriage Museum, the park and everything else between the current DPW garage and the Powow River. It does not include the realignment of Water Street, the new DPW garage or the Water Street parking garage expansion, which are all separate projects, Kezer said.

“The price tag includes all of the things that the state is going to come and deliver,” Kezer said, noting that the city probably wouldn’t have even bothered with the boat launch if the state hadn’t offered to pay for it. “It’s just the mechanism to get it done is we have to authorize the entire project, and then the state reimburses us when we get it done.”

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 12.