Here comes the understatement of the week: The Lower Millyard project has been, and will continue to be, a very complicated effort.
Most of the discussion surrounding the Lower Millyard so far has been economic in nature, specifically how much it will cost to move the Department of Public Works garage, build Heritage Park and realign Water Street.
But what hasn’t garnered as much attention is the fact that the area also has about a century’s worth of soil contamination, which makes it almost impossible to do anything with the land until the soil can be cleaned up.
In technical terms, the Lower Millyard is a brownfield site, or a piece of land previously used for industrial purposes that has the potential to be reused once it has been cleaned up. Brownfield sites usually have low concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution in the soil, and cleaning all of that up isn’t as simple as hiring a really good gardener.
Luckily for Amesbury, the state has a special Brownfield Support Team dedicated specifically to helping clean up brownfields in order to advance high-priority projects, and the Lower Millyard was recently selected as one of five projects to receive BST support.
Last week, representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the attorney general’s office and other state and federal agencies met with Mayor Thatcher Kezer to discuss the Lower Millyard and begin planning how to best move the project forward.
By bringing all of the agencies together, the representatives from each can work together on permitting matters and ownership issues and essentially fight through all of the red tape that typically holds up complicated projects like the Lower Millyard.
Kezer said he was very impressed with the state’s level of commitment and is excited for the progress that the group promises to help bring about.
“If this was an easy project to get done, they wouldn’t be here,” Kezer said. “They’re here to help us successfully navigate what it’s going to take to do what we’re trying to achieve, and the benefit for Amesbury is that the Patrick/Murray administration has singled out the Lower Millyard as a project that they want to succeed.”
The Amesbury Educational Foundation, Inc. has been awarded a new $20,000 grant from the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank to help fund the organization’s efforts to improve the Amesbury school system.
“This grant money will allow AEFI to continue to award grants to teachers, give scholarships and support distance learning as part of the partnership with Northern Essex Community College,” AEFI president Laurie Knapp said.
Janice Morse, president and CEO of the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, said the bank took pride in being able to help community-based organizations like AEFI, and Knapp said she appreciated the support of the Newburyport Five Cents Saving Bank in helping bring new programs to Amesbury schools.
AEFI has awarded $312,000 in grants and scholarships in total over the past 10 years, including $35,000 in funds at last October’s “Autumn Evening of Giving.”
The Amesbury Senior Center will be offering a free seminar about memory preservation through nutrition next Wednesday, Jan. 30.
Led by internationally recognized Alzheimer’s expert Dr. Nancy Lombardo, the seminar will take place at 4 p.m. at the center and is being done as part of the Amesbury Caregiver Essential program with sponsorship from Methuen Village.
Dr. Lombardo has worked for more than 30 years studying Alzheimer’s disease and helping provide services for older adults. She is a founder of the national Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Disease International and is currently the president of the Brain Health and Wellness Center.
The second-grade Destination Imagination team at Amesbury Elementary School is hosting a February food drive for Our Neighbors’ Table. The children will be collecting nonperishable food items over the next three weeks to help restock Our Neighbors’ Table food pantry.
The most-needed items are canned fruit, baked beans, pasta sauce, tuna and canned chicken. Donations can be dropped off in the front lobby of the school until Feb. 14.
The following meetings are scheduled this week and are open to the public:
Zoning Board of Appeals, 7 p.m., City Hall Auditorium
School Committee Policy Subcommittee, 1 p.m., Amesbury superintendent’s office
Planning Board, 7 p.m., City Hall Auditorium
Mac Cerullo covers Amesbury for The Daily News. He can be reached at 978-462-6666, ext. 3238 or by email at email@example.com. Follow Mac on Twitter at @MacCerullo.