By Mac Cerullo and Dyke Hendrickson
---- — Gov. Deval Patrick visited Newburyport an Amesbury yesterday morning to lend his support to mayors Thatcher Kezer and Donna Holaday, fellow Democrats who are each facing tough challenges in this coming Tuesday’s city elections.
Patrick visited both communities, and while in Amesbury, Patrick announced that the city would be awarded a $1.5 million grant through the MassWorks Infrastructure Grant Program, which will allow the city to complete the Lower Millyard redevelopment project.
Kezer said the money from the grant will be used to realign Water Street so that it runs through the spot where the soon-to-be-demolished Department of Public Works building currently stands. It will also be used to create additional parking in the area, and bring the same type of sidewalks and lighting that currently exist downtown into the Lower Millyard down to the bridge.
“This is the final piece of the whole Lower Millyard public investment,” Kezer said. “So with this money in place, we are funded and moving forward on all the components that we’ve laid out.”
In 2011, Amesbury was awarded a $1.2 million MassWorks grant for the Lower Millyard and the reconstruction of Elm Street. That project will be completed within the next few weeks, and over the summer the grant was expanded by $200,000 to help cover some of the brownfield cleanup efforts within the Lower Millyard as well.
“Growth requires investment, and investments like these to support housing and business development will help catalyze growth in Amesbury and beyond,” Patrick said. “If we want to expand opportunity in our commonwealth, this is what government must do and do well.”
Patrick and Kezer made the announcement in the Lower Millyard to a crowd of about 100 supporters, many of whom carried “I am Pro Amesbury” signs. Several city councilors and department heads, along with many business owners, came out to greet Patrick as well.
While the endorsement from Patrick was a boost for Kezer, his opponent in the Nov. 5 election, Ken Gray, picked up two endorsements of his own from his fellow Republicans -- candidate for governor Charlie Baker and former state senate minority leader Richard Tisei.
“Ken Gray is focused on the outcomes that should be foremost on the minds of anyone in the public sector,” Baker said. “Growing the local economy in a sustainable way, making services more affordable and ensuring accountability in every facet of municipal government.”
Once he was finished in Amesbury, Patrick drove over to Newburyport, and his stops included meeting diners at 17 State Street Cafe and Abraham’s Bagels and Pizza.
Walking with Holaday and about a dozen supporters, Patrick was greeted warmly.
At 17 State Street Cafe, he consumed a hefty slice of homemade wheat bread with molasses butter that was so large (and inviting) that he had to stop conversing in order to down the delicacy.
“Does anyone want to eat part of this?” he asked onlookers with a smile.
Patrick spoke warmly about Holaday, a Democrat with whom he and his team have worked on numerous funding projects including the Whittier Bridge, the Merrimac Street roundabout and the new Bresnahan Elementary School.
The governor was asked to comment on impending changes in the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps that threaten to raise the cost of insurance for waterfront homeowners and businesses by 10-fold.
“This is a serious issue, and I hear the concern from many parts of the state including the Cape,” said Patrick, who had to move his appearance here up a day so he could participate in the Red Sox victory parade today.
“One thing we’ve got to do is engage the insurance industry, and learn more about the specifics. And we want to study the FEMA model that has produced new numbers and risk assessments.”
He declined direct comment on pending state legislation that calls for a delay in implementation of the new rules, which are part of the federal Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012.
The governor noted that new regulations are part of federal law, which in most cases supersedes statutes promulgated by state bodies.