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July 3, 2013

State money puts Millyard project back on track

But funding problems loom ahead

AMESBURY — A major hurdle impeding progress on the Heritage Park project has been cleared as Gov. Deval Patrick announced yesterday that he has committed an additional $200,000 in state funds to clean up the privately owned portion of the Lower Millyard.

Mayor Thatcher Kezer said the state agreed to expand the scope of the existing Elm Street MassWorks Grant, which was awarded to the city in 2011, to address the cleanup of 25 Water St. and untangle a web of legal issues that will allow the project to move forward as planned.

“This is incredibly good news,” Kezer said.

The state committed the funds to Amesbury after Kezer reached out to Greg Bialecki, the state’s secretary of Housing and Economic Development, and explained the tight timeframe the city was facing with the project and the need to move forward immediately.

“The clock was running out on this, because there are certain expenses that needed to happen under this fiscal year,” Kezer said. “So we needed to move forward to keep this on track.”

Kezer said that by securing the funding, the city will now be able to complete the transaction to accept the property at 25 Water St., which will allow it to access the $725,000 bond authorization approved for the project by the City Council in April and get things moving.

Dan Healey, who owns the Carriage Mills office building on Water Street, is donating the parcel of land at 25 Water St. to the city, and in April the City Council voted to accept the land with the condition that no city funds be used to clean up the land. The trouble is that Healey also made the city cleaning up the land a condition of his donation, so the transaction couldn’t be completed until outside funds could be found.

With the land issue settled, Kezer said Healey’s and the city’s attorneys will be working out the final details and the transaction should be finalized shortly.

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