Monday, August 17, 2009

City Council Planning and Development Committee meetings

The following three Planning and Development Committee meetings have been scheduled and have also been posted as Committee of the Whole so other Councillors can attend.

  • Thursday, August 20th at 7pm to discuss NRA appointment (Council Chamber, City Hall)
  • Wednesday, August 26th at 6pm to discuss Parks and Rec regulations, Wind Energy ordinance, and other matters (Auditorium, City Hall)
  • Thursday, August 27th at 6pm to discuss 'small wind' turbine with Mass Audubon (Council Chamber, City Hall)

The meetings are open to the public.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Crow Lane Landfill Update — August 15, 2009

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ruch, Susan (DEP)
Date: Sat, Aug 15, 2009 at 4:52 PM
Subject: Crow Lane Landfill Update — August 15, 2009
To: "Information, Crowlane (DEP)"

Key Date & Other Important Information:

· November 2009 — The Final Judgment entered by the Superior Court requires New Ventures (NV) to cap the Crow Land Landfill by November 2009. Among other things, New Ventures is specifically required to install the gas blanket and fabric membrane liner (FML) layer on the landfill. Installation of the FML is critical to capturing and controlling fugitive emissions from the Landfill.

· MassDEP continues to actively monitor conditions at the Landfill and in the neighborhoods, and directing the activities of our consultant, Shaw Environmental.

· MassDEP continues to closely review complaints and, whenever possible, to deploy Shaw to investigate, document and control odor problems, and to provid real-time communications to New Ventures about what we are seeing and smelling on the ground.

· MassDEP continues to explore with New Ventures what additional measures can be implemented to reduce odors during the closure.

· MassDEP is looking into discrepancies between the number of complaint reports received by MassDEP from New Ventures and the number of complaints that some citizens report (through e-mail) they have called into the answering service. MassDEP is actively investigating this discrepancy, as well as reports about the answering service, together with the Attorney General’s Office.

· This update is being provided as part of MassDEP’s commitment to more frequent communications with the residents and officials of Newburyport concerning the capping and closure of Crow Lane Landfill. Please send your questions, comments and suggestions to: In addition to these email updates, correspondence and reports are posted in the MassDEP Northeast Region web site at:

Landfill Update — August 15, 2009:

· Conditions at the Landfill: Conditions at the Landfill this past week were generally good. Shaw inspects the Landfill and marks any breakouts first thing each morning and throughout the day. This week, there were fewer breakouts and these were small in size. New Ventures promptly addressed these breakouts. Since MassDEP deployed Shaw to closely monitor conditions at the Landfill and provide real-time communication to New Ventures, there has been a reduction in the number and severity of gas and leachate breakouts at the Landfill.

· Flare Problem Detected and Corrected on Thursday: As part of MassDEP’s routine inspections of the landfill gas pretreatment and flare system, Shaw observed that the flare was operating below design temperature on Thursday, August 13th. MassDEP immediately directed New Ventures to quickly implement measures to restore the flare to the proper operating temperature.

o New Ventures took prompt action to temporarily shut down the flare. Under observation of Shaw, New Ventures inspected the flare and found that the damper control arm had come loose, resulting in improper operation of the damper. In addition, New Ventures then experienced a problem with the ignition plug.

o In addition to correcting the damper control arm and ignition plug problems, New Ventures took the opportunity of the flare being down to replace the thermal couple sensor and clean the screen at the damper. The flare was down for about three (3) hours, from approximately 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

· Additional Survey Work Conducted: New Ventures provided a current conditions survey plan to MassDEP. Pursuant to MassDEP’s request, New Ventures had its surveyors return to the Landfill at the end of the week to take a few additional survey points. These surveys reflect current contours of the Landfill.

Activities at the Landfill during the Week of 8/17 — 8/21:

· Ambient Air Sampling to be Conducted Early this Week: Ambient air sampling will be conducted by Shaw early this week, under the supervision and direction of MassDEP staff. Samples will be taken both at the Landfill and in surrounding neighborhoods. Originally been scheduled for last week, this sampling was postponed due to wet weather and wind directions. The weather forecast suggests good conditions for sampling early during the week of 8/17.

o With respect to sampling in the neighborhood, we plan to take samples when odors can actually be detected. If we are in the neighborhood but cannot detect odor, we will take a single air sample at that time. We will return to the neighborhood again, as necessary, until we are able to take some samples under actual odor conditions.

o If you smell an odor early this week, please call the New Ventures complaint line and, if you are able to do so, send an e-mail as soon as possible. Your calls to New Ventures, together with your e-mails, will assist us in obtaining samples when odors are occurring.

· Groundwater, Surface Water and Sediment Sampling Scheduled: Sampling of groundwater, surface water and sediments are scheduled for Thursday or Friday of this week, contingent upon weather conditions. This sampling will be conducted by Shaw under the supervision and direction of MassDEP staff.

· Actions Taken to Install Jerome Meter Network: MassDEP is installing additional Jerome Meters in neighborhoods around the Landfill. Early this week, MassDEP staff and Shaw will visit several proposed locations to confirm that such locations are appropriate and workable.

o Shaw is constructing cases to house and protect the meters.

o Shaw will install the cases and meters. We hope to complete installation by the end of the week.

· Inspection of Flare Being Scheduled for Late August: Shaw is finalizing the sub‑contract with Highland Power to inspect the flare.

o Highland Power designed and built the flare and previously performed a flare inspection in 2008. The purpose of Highland’s inspection is to ensure the flare system is operating as designed and for Highland Power to provide any recommendations concerning operation and maintenance of the flare system.

o Scheduling of this inspection is based upon the availability of key Highland personnel. The inspection will likely occur the week of August 24th.


Friday, August 14, 2009

The Finances of a Senior Center

A few thoughts after reading today's Daily News and Tom Salemi's blog:

Currently, the City has a General Fund Operating Budget of $46.6 Million. We spend $21.0 Million on the School Department, $3.0 Million for the Police Department, $2.9 Million for the Fire Department, $1.1 Million for the Library and $183,190 on Council of Aging services.

In terms of the operating budget after a Senior Center is built, there will be a slight increase but it is more likely in the several thousands range rather than the tens of thousands range. Of the $183,190 we spend on Council of Aging services, $14,000 is for rent of Salvation Army space. So assume the $14,000 goes into building operating costs and then add some additional funds for heating, cooling, and upkeep: we're still talking a pretty small operating cost annually. That marginal increase in cost will be offset by programming efficiencies from running services in one site versus rented and borrowed spaces.

The Senior Center construction is a one time cost.

The original $5 Million figure was based on a very simple feasibility study, which basically tested whether a Senior Center would fit on the site.

The current $6.8 Million ESTIMATE from the architect factors in what construction costs might be in three years (post recession) as well as plans to create a basement (with elevator) where in the future more space can be had without expanding the footprint. The Senior Center Building Committee wants to build the Center in a way which enhances the park and playground uses at Cushing Park, and not expand the footprint in 20 years when we will have more seniors living in Newburyport. I think Tom Salemi will then be in his mid-forties.

In terms of the capital outlay, the City has never been 'on the hook' for a certain amount of the capital cost of a Senior Center.

The path to funding this project has always included Federal, State, City (meaning you all and me voting for some amount of debt exclusion), and private donors---the funding mix percentages have always been uncertain. See my post from over a year ago:

The more successful the private fundraising and grant writing, the smaller will be the local burden. Now that the design phase is completed, the private fundraising needs to begin. That will take some time, then we'll see what is needed from the City side. Mayor Moak has consistently said that the City (ie we taxpayers) would have to kick in if this is to happen. Newburyport voters have approved what they have seen as necessary capital projects in the past: Library, High School, Police Station.

My own guess is that a debt exclusion of $1 to 2 Million might be acceptable to voters; more than that would be a difficult sell. As with any debt exclusion or override, the voters have the final say in how their tax dollars are spent.

Whether NBPT voters will approve this down the road, whether the Friends of the Council on Aging are able to find donors, whether the Commonwealth's Dept of Housing and Community Development would approve a substantial grant from CDBG, whether our elected Federal officials can direct funding to this project-----all remains to be seen.

What is clear to me is a Senior Center is an important vehicle for basic services and programming for isolated and vulnerable seniors---there are a lot of these folks living here. You might be surprised. I think it's the least we can do.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

MassDEP Crow Lane Landfill Information July 31, 2009

Commissioner Burt mentioned at the meetings in Newburyport last week that MassDEP would provide information about activities at the landfill to residents and officials. We think the best way to do this is to send updates to people on the established email network that residents have been using. This is the first such email and we are looking for comments on this approach. We’d also like to here about other names we should add to the distribution list. Please send your questions, comments and suggestions to the following email address:

In addition to these email updates, correspondence and reports are posted in the MassDEP Northeast Region web site at


Landfill Update – July 31, 2009:

As of Monday, August 27th, the Department is monitoring the daily operations and closure activities at the landfill using contractors from Shaw Environmental. We plan to continue this coverage through December 2009. The scope of services includes the following tasks and items:

· 2 staff will rotate coverage;

· The contract allows for coverage 5 days per week from 7 AM to 7 PM and weekend coverage as well. The hours of coverage on a daily basis and weekend coverage may vary depending on activities and conditions at the landfill.

· Coverage is scheduled for Saturday 8/1 7:30 to noon.

· The contractor’s duties include but are not limited too the following:

o Inspect/Monitor site activities and complete inspection form & checklists;

o Sample pretreatment system and inlet flare daily;

o Inspect pre-treatment system and flare and observe its operation;

o Take gas treatment system samples;

o Inspect site for odor breakouts at the beginning of the day, during the day and at the end of the day;

o Download data from and maintain off-site hydrogen sulfide monitoring stations daily;

o Respond to complaints during operating hours including identification of causes;

o Observe construction activities,

o Provide information to MassDEP about work accomplished by New Ventures and work planned on a daily and/or weekly basis when possible. This information will be included in email updates from MassDEP;

o Collect landfill gas system samples from wells periodically; and

o Report to MassDEP situations that require attention. MassDEP will inform New Ventures of and/or go to the landfill to discuss the actions needed in order to address issues.

o The contractor will observe the actions New Ventures takes to address issues and report back to MassDEP.

Ambient Air Quality, Water Quality and Sediment Monitoring Planned:

MassDEP is developing a contract for the collection and analyses of the following samples:

· Ambient air samples in the neighborhoods surrounding the landfill and samples of the landfill gas entering and exiting the pretreatment system and flare; and

· Surface water and sediment samples from locations around the landfill, the vernal pool and samples from leachate collection tanks.

The goal is to have this contract in place so that sampling can be schedule to begin during the second week of August.

Activities at the Landfill During the Week of 7/27 – 8/1:

· MassDEP staff and our contractor met with New Ventures and their consultant at the landfill on Monday to go over the activities of the contractor.

· Odor complaints continue, particularly on Friday 7/31. The contractor investigated several complaints and attempted to identify possible causes at the landfill and to have New Ventures address them. Leachate breakouts were covered and clay cover was added to the side slopes on the Southeast corner.

· The contractor has been inspecting the landfill and operations each day, identifying leachate seeps and observing New Ventures employees as the seeps were fixed.

· The contractor began installing the new hydrogen sulfide meter (the Jerome Meter) at a nearby residential property. MassDEP will be finalizing the location of 2 additional meters with the City next week.

· New Ventures has been finishing the grading associated with the final access road pathway that will lead to the top of the landfill. They have also been filling and grading in the area where the scale was previously located after the relocated the office trailer closer to Crow Lane.

· New Ventures has had surveyors on site to update the landfill plans to reflect the current contours.