, Newburyport, MA


March 11, 2013

Taxpayers can't afford to clean up Millyard

To the editor:

Tomorrow, the Amesbury City Council will consider spending what could potentially run into the millions of dollars of taxpayer monies to clean up and develop a parcel of land to the benefit of two private business owners.

No one disputes that this parcel, known colloquially as the Lower Millyard, is an eyesore. But there is honest disagreement over how, and when, to tackle the mess.

Mayor Kezer proposes spending some $2.2 million of taxpayer money to fix up the Lower Millyard, including its cleanup, creation of a park and the construction of a parking garage. The mayor further

states that once the Lower Millyard is readied, some “$93 million in private investment” would appear. Not cited is who, exactly, has $93 million ready and waiting to pump into the Amesbury economy. Moreover, Mayor Kezer has written that if we don’t spend this taxpayer money, the two abutting landowners “would be gone,” suggesting that said investors are willing to spend nearly $100 million but not $2.2 million. If you just raised an eyebrow, you’re not alone.

Another risk, not mentioned, is that decades of accumulated toxic waste lies under the surface of the targeted property, and to date no mention has been made of that likelihood, let alone who would shoulder the additional — and considerable — costs. Under terms of the proposed deal, we taxpayers will be “gifted” with a certain amount of land known to be contaminated (”brownfield”), and therefore we would be on the hook for its cleanup. From experience, the costs associated with such remediation can easily run in the millions. Amesbury can ill afford another Big Dig.

What’s clear, however, is that the town already suffers from excess capacity. Currently there are advertisements for office space of up to 3,000 square feet in the Upper Millyard, and Bailey’s Pond, the

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