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January 17, 2014

Council sends financial items to committee

NEWBURYPORT — City officials sent several financial matters to committee during their first regular meeting of the year Monday night.

A request from Mayor Donna Holaday for a transfer of $9,775 to hire a grant writer on a part-time basis was sent to the Budget and Finance Committee.

Holaday said a grant writer could pursue financial opportunities that would outweigh the cost of the position.

The mayor said that workloads of current staffers rule out assigning grant-writing tasks to a municipal employee.

In the future, the cost of a grant writer might be shared by the School Department, she said.

The council also sent to committee a request from the mayor to designate $25,000 to an “OPED Trust Fund.”

OPED stands for Other Post-Employment Benefits and relates to the city’s obligation to put away money for the retirement of city employees.

“We must make a financial stance that acknowledges our recognition of this obligation by establishing an irrevocable trust specifically to cover these long-term costs,” said Holaday. The matter went to the Budget and Finance Committee.

On a separate matter, Councilor Ari Herzog said he will schedule a public meeting in early February to discuss the possibility of providing competition to Comcast.

“It frustrates me that Comcast is the only vendor of high-speed broadband Internet access in the city,” said Herzog, the new chairman of the Public Utilities Committee, in a later explanation.

“Comcast owns the local monopoly on broadband, and I intend to find alternatives.” No date for a meeting has been announced.

Also, new Councilor Meghan Kinsey added to her credentials as the municipal vocalist by leading the council in song at the recent meeting.

At the inauguration, Kinsey belted out an inspired rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

On Monday night, with very little prompting, she led councilors and onlookers in a spirited version of “Happy Birthday” to Peter Lombardi, a top aide to the mayor.

Lombardi’s age was not publicly revealed, but evidently with Amesbury City Hall in mind, one observer in the gallery commented, “At least he’s older than 19.”

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