NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

April 11, 2013

Council ditches branding plan

AMESBURY — The City Council has reversed its previous decision to use $30,000 worth of unspent tax money to hire a city branding consultant.

The branding consultant proposal was defeated late Tuesday night by a vote of 5-4, with councilors Anne Ferguson, Robert Gilday, Bob Lavoie and Allen Neale voting in favor and Donna McClure, James Kelcourse, Joseph McMilleon, Derek Kimball and Christian Scorzoni voting no.

The vote to quash the branding consultant proposal went against the council’s own recommendation to itself, made at a March meeting when the same nine councilors met as the Finance Committee. At that meeting, the council voted 5-4 to recommend to itself the hiring of the consultant. It’s at least the second time in the past decade that the council has rejected its own recommendation.

The council’s rules call for bills to be heard and voted on by a Finance Committee before the council itself can vote on it. The Finance Committee’s role is to recommend, or not recommend, proposed expenditures.

Several years ago, the state advised that the Finance Committee consist of all nine council members. But that structure has been controversial and the subject of occasional debate — some have argued that the Finance Committee should be an independent board made up of some councilors as well as appointed citizens.

The swing vote on the branding consultant debate turned out to be Scorzoni, who voted in favor of recommending the bill in the Finance Committee but then cast the deciding vote against it late Tuesday night.

Scorzoni could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The branding consultant plan had been advanced by Mayor Thatcher Kezer, in an effort to create a marketing image for Amesbury. At the March Finance Committee hearing, the plan drew skepticism from the councilors and from the audience, many of whom suggested that it would be a waste of money and that Amesbury already has a brand.

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