NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

June 24, 2013

School projects, roundabout only the start of construction ahead

Newburyport City Notebook
Dyke Hendrickson

---- — Newburyport will turn 250 in 2014, but despite its age the city is going through a “growth spurt” that seems to be providing some early signs of transition pains.

Construction on the new Bresnahan Elementary School has started, which has put the Brown School into focus. Brown will be closed in June 2014, and students will attend the new Bresnahan.

Residents of the South End, disturbed at the loss of a popular (albeit deteriorating) playground, are pressing for replacement structures for youngsters. In addition, they would like assurances that open space will be retained on the Brown School grounds once the school is closed.

Mayor Donna Holaday has called for a study to determine whether affordable housing would be an appropriate use of the old Brown School.

But housing requires parking, and South End residents do not want to hear about affordable housing if it means no park and/or open space.

That said, a cash transfer of $20,000 to “parks maintenance” is on tonight’s agenda of the City Council.

Most City Hall observers think expenditure for temporary playground equipment will be approved since more than 400 online signatures were amassed in favor of such an endeavor.

Similarly, some residents who live near the Bresnahan School are unhappy at losing a playground because of construction work. A baseball field also has been erased by the footprint of the school.

City councilors have earmarked $3,900 for a study to determine whether a section of the Fuller athletic fields off Low Street would be appropriate for a new diamond.

So those near the Bresnahan, too, are being affected by change.

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On another vexing matter relating to construction, numerous residents have complained that the roundabout at the intersection of Spofford and Merrimac streets is taking a very long time.

When the $1 million state-funded project was announced, it seemed like a well-crafted answer to the concerns of drivers who regularly have near-collisions at the heavily traveled intersection.

But despite weeks of work and a staging area that has taken up a good percentage of nearby Moseley Woods, the project does not appear to be nearing completion.

Councilor Bob Cronin reports in his periodic newsletter that essential underground drainage and pipe work is under way — and time consuming.

Still, the lack of ostensible headway is an example that “progress” takes time.

The city is actually embarked upon one of the greatest public building periods in its history (second perhaps to the frenetic, must-do activity after the Fire of 1811).

Two school projects and a roundabout project have been launched.

Preparations have started for the I-95 bridge over the Merrimack, an enormous project that will take years.

And two other major expansion efforts, the sewage-treatment plant on Water Street and the clearwell-pumping station on Spring Lane, are also in progress.

Scheduled to begin any month is the 75-unit residential center for brain-injury patients adjacent to Anna Jaques Hospital.

These are the good old days for new brick-and-mortar projects for the public good.

Meanwhile, spokesmen for National Grid say the company will be putting its riverfront acreage on the market at some time.

Demolition crews were at 95 Water St. last week to take down three old brick offices (circa 1920).

The 3.09 acres is on the tax rolls for about $1.5 million, but its aesthetic value is compromised by the metal infrastructure that will stay.

Still, the property is on a choice piece of riverbank, and could be in play in coming months.

National Grid itself will not be rebuilding on the property, a corporate spokeswoman said.

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

Tonight

Budget and Finance Committee, 6:30 p.m., City Hall council chambers.

City Council, 7:30 p.m,. City Hall council chambers

Tuesday

State election, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., all wards.

River Valley Charter School, 7 p.m., 2 Perry Way.

Wednesday

Licensing Commission, 7 p.m., 4 Green St.

River Valley Charter School, 7 p.m., 2 Perry Way.

Thursday

Energy Advisory Committee, 7 p.m., City Hall.

Friday

Affordable Housing Trust, 8:30 a.m., mayor’s office, discuss Brown School reuse.

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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.