Holaday: City must move forward without retail marijuana revenue

Donna Holaday

NEWBURYPORT — Mayor Donna Holaday said although the city would lose out on revenue following the vote Tuesday to ban retail marijuana shops in the city, she was “pleased” with the voter turnout for the municipal election and is ready to work with a new City Council.

Holaday was a guest Saturday on the Local Pulse internet radio show. Host Joe DiBiase said he was “a little surprised” at the results of Question 1 — in which residents voted to prohibit retail marijuana zoning and general ordinances in Newburyport — and the mayor agreed.

“I actually thought that we would end up with retail,” she said, adding that Opt Out Newburyport, a group that led the effort to ban retail marijuana took it a step too far.

“It’s one thing to have a grassroots organization that is actively pursuing their position, but I thought that they went over the top in terms of a lot of the fearmongering,” she said.

Holaday added that she spoke with the police chief in Salisbury, who said the town has had no issues with Alternative Therapies Group since it opened on Elm Street in September.

One weekend, the retail store brought in $200,000, according to Holaday.

“So, we are going to be losing revenue that we could use in the city, but the voters have spoken and we move on,” she said.

Holaday said she was happy with the election and is looking forward to working with the new councilors.

“Overall, I think it’s a good council,” she said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us in this next term.”

Holaday expressed her gratitude to City Clerk Richard Jones and his staff, the volunteers at the polls and those who had the courage to run. The mayor said she was “really pleased” with voter turnout, especially compared to neighboring communities. Newburyport saw a voter turnout of 36.5%.

DiBiase and Holaday talked about other city issues during the interview, including the School Committee’s vote last week to implement adjusted school start times beginning next fall.

Newburyport is the first of the 12 school districts in the Cape Ann League to do so.

The idea for new start times has been in the works for about six or so years with parents and officials citing the health benefits of giving high school students a little extra time to sleep.

To consider new start times, school officials had to take transportation and after-school activities into account.

“At one point, we were told we would need 13 new buses,” Holaday said of past proposals. “That’s $750,000 in addition to what we are currently paying.”

Holaday said she “could never support that” and would rather put the money into staffing, curriculum and programs, among other areas.

Superintendent Sean Gallagher’s plan consolidates the current four bus routes into three.

It moves Newburyport High School’s start time from 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. and its dismissal time from 2:21 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Molin and Nock schools will move to a schedule of 7:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Previously, Molin started at 8:10 a.m. and dismissed at 2:40 p.m. while Nock started at 7:30 a.m. and dismissed at 2 p.m.

Francis T. Bresnahan Elementary School’s 8:20 a.m. start time and 2:50 p.m. dismissal time will remain the same.

Holaday said after-school activities such as athletics will still require some flexibility and she hopes other Cape Ann League schools will also consider such changes.

“I’m pleased that we finally have this piece resolved,” she said.

Local Pulse airs live from 9 to 10 a.m. each Saturday from the newsroom of The Daily News on Liberty Street.

To listen live Saturday, or to download previous shows, go to newburyportnews.com/LocalPulse.

Staff writer Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at halterisio@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.

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