, Newburyport, MA

September 30, 2013

Sullivan seeks release of minutes on PI water/sewer talks


---- — NEWBURYPORT — One item on tonight’s City Council agenda is a request from Councilor Dick Sullivan Jr. that city officials make public executive session minutes relating to “problems with Plum Island water and sewer services.”

Municipal leaders in recent months have launched a study to determine the source of problems with the water and sewer system that runs from the mainland to Plum Island in both Newburyport and Newbury.

The water system has failed to function properly on several occasions, temporarily leaving residences without water.

Municipal engineers are concerned about a major disruption if there is a fundamental problem in the system.

Municipal leaders have discussed the problem among themselves and have kept most exploratory sessions confidential.

Neither the public nor the press was permitted to hear discussions, though Mayor Donna Holaday last winter held a question-answer session in the auditorium of City Hall to address the concerns of residents.

Sullivan, an at-large councilor who is running for mayor, is formally requesting that information be shared.

His request is as follows: “That the City Council release for public inspection all executive session minutes pertaining to the ongoing problems with Plum Island water and sewer services as well as all test results to materials used in building the water and sewer system on Plum Island.”

Holaday recently said she is against making such minutes open to the public.

“There is active litigation,” said Holaday, a lawyer. “One of the strategies of any legal action is not to tip your hand.

“The information will be released when the time is right, and that time is very close.”

It is believed that the city is using threats of legal action to engender cooperation with developers and construction teams that worked on the project.

Holaday indicated if minutes are released “prematurely,” the names of individuals who might be part of a legal action would have to be redacted.

City officials say the city’s legal counsel, Kopelman and Paige PC, a Boston law firm, would have to be called in to supervise the process, creating a legal expense.

The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. in City Hall.