, Newburyport, MA

February 11, 2013

Rumored problem with PI water system to be aired Wednesday

Newburyport City Notebook
Dyke Hendrickson

---- — Plum Island will be in the news again this week when Mayor Donna Holaday heads an information session on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall to discuss the vulnerable water system on the island.

Rumors have circulated for months that there is something structurally amiss with the water system, built at a cost of $22.9 million about a half-dozen years ago.

And it became more than rumor when Tracy Blais, town administrator in Newbury, stated that there were failures in the system.

But few details have been made public.

Most of the island’s 1,200 residences are in Newbury, but the city of Newburyport administers the water and sewer system. So the ball is in Holaday’s court.

State officials are expected to be at the meeting, and will likely add gravitas to the conclusions reached by engineers employed by the city and private industry.

If there is a major problem that needs to be addressed, ratepayers of both communities — and not just those on Plum Island — will be on the hook for the expense.


This might be the wrong time to bring it up, but Your Scribe makes this suggestion: Can some of the “No Parking” signs be taken down near the PI beaches this summer?

In recent weeks, local, state and federal workers have expended enormous effort to preserve private residences on the island.

But each summer, it seems that more “No Parking” signs go up near the beaches.

The order not to park and the threat of towing are not a welcome message for visitors. Beyond that, the amount of taxpayer money being expended on the island seems to make the case that that visitors should be able to park along public streets so they can walk to the beaches.


On the subject of municipal employees, it appears that working in city government has become very attractive.

The position of new fire chief to replace the retiring Stephen Cutter has drawn 45 applicants.

A city official said a support position in the Planning Office inspired 75 to apply.

And why not? If Cutter, for instance, is accorded nearly 80 percent of his top averaged salary as many retirees are, the ex-chief, now 54, will be making more than $80,000 annually in retirement earnings, plus some health benefits.

A career in municipal government, either at City Hall or in the school system, has emerged as a rewarding choice for many who have chosen it.


With Valentine’s Day approaching, one sector of municipal employees deserves a particular nod of warm appreciation: librarians.

The library here is an enormous resource, offering options including books, magazines, newspapers, tapes, films, computers, archives, study desks and meeting rooms.

The horde of visitors during the day includes tots in the morning, teens in mid-afternoon and home-from-work commuters in the evening. In addition, numerous citizens — from the homeless to the high-born — enjoy the benefits of a comfortable chair in a warm building throughout the day.

Indeed, librarians have to be part-educator, part-social worker to handle the hundreds who cross the lobby each day.

Librarians are among the most generous-of-spirit professionals in any community — especially this one.


Meetings this week


Budget and Finance Committee, Committee of the Whole, 6:30 p.m., City Hall.

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

Public Safety Committee, 7 p.m., City Hall.

City Council, 7:30 p.m., City Council Chambers.


Tree Commission, 3 p.m., library.

Bartlet Mall Commission,6 p.m., City Hall, conference room.

Zoning Board of Appeals, 7 p.m., City Council Chambers.


Information session on Plum Island water system, 6 p.m., City Hall.

Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, 7 p.m., library.

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


Disabilities Commission, 6 p.m., Nock School, 70 Low St.

Fruit Street Historic District, 7 p.m., City Hall.


Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be contacted at 978-462-6666, ext. 3226 or