Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Moseley to Maudslay Trail

From today's Daily News:

Moseley-to-Maudslay trail hits bump in road amid concerns
Two councilors seek to reconsider $50,000 funding request

By Dyke Hendrickson
Staff Writer

NEWBURYPORT — Don't start planning that Moseley-to-Maudslay hike just yet.

A day after the City Council voted 7-4 to approve $45,000 in planning funds for a proposed connection trail between Moseley Woods and Maudslay State Park, two city councilors had taken action to bring the issue back before the board for further discussion in two weeks,
The background on this is that the Council each year votes on the recommendations of the Community Preservation Council.

These are this year's recommendations at this link:

The particular recommendation on this proposed trail:
The CPC recommends the appropriation of $45,000 to the City of Newburyport to
support design and permitting of the Moseley-Maudslay Trail. The project is managed
by the Office of Planning and Development.
The CPA category for this project is Recreation.
Project Summary
Development of this new recreational trail along the Merrimack River and through the woods would result in a direct connection between the City’s Moseley Woods Park and the Commonwealth’s Maudslay State Park. The Moseley-Maudslay Trail is generally envisioned as a six-foot wide engineered path with one-foot shoulders. It will serve multiple users – pedestrians, runners, mountain bikers – and will incorporate switchbacks in areas of steep topography to be both wheelchair and stroller accessible.
A small pond on Water Department land adjacent to Moseley will be featured along the trail. The route will then cross a stream and cross under the new I-95 Whittier Bridge.
After reaching Spring Lane, the trail will parallel the road and river for a short distance, offering beautiful views, before crossing the lane to the west. The trail will ultimately connect with the state park’s existing trail system below Castle Hill at the beginning of the designated “Merrimack River Trail.” Proposed amenities include directional signage, potential interpretive signage and a few benches.
The recommended appropriation will support design services for the Moseley-Maudslay Trail, including professional site evaluation, design development, survey, resource delineation, cost estimating, public meetings, and permitting. It is important that the trail be designed and permitted in conjunction with the MassDOT Whittier Bridge design process in 2011-2012.

Here is the video from the Council meeting the other night.

I was one of the 7 who voted in favor of this appropriation. I have concerns that the process so far has not included enough input from the public, the Moseley Woods Commission, and the Maudslay State Park Association. I favor the appropriation on the condition that the City needs to determine that there there is sufficient community support for the trail before starting this design process, a process which is only a small step on a longer path and one which can be stopped if the project isn't feasible. It is not unusual for monies to be rescinded from the CPC allocations.

The interesting stuff regarding the trail (Project Number 11) starts approximately 42 minutes. The timer on the video feed seems to fluctuate but if you start at 42 minutes, you should see it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Rawson Hill Water Tank Improvement Project

P.O. BOX 550
PAUL F. COLBY TEL. (978)465-4466

Dear Neighbor:

Beginning the last week of August the Newburyport DPS, Water Division will begin a capital
improvement project of painting the water storage tank next to the hospital. This will involve
reconditioning and painting both the inside and outside of the water tank, a project that is
expected to be completed by mid October (weather permitting). The tank will be repainted blue.

What impact will you notice from this work?

• Beginning at the end of August contractors will be on site setting up the equipment
necessary for their work. Most of the equipment will be set up inside the fenced area at
the tank or on hospital property. However there will be a need to use the side of the road,
next to the tank, as part of the staging area for work trailers. Trailers will be pulled off the
road as far as possible and orange caution fencing will be placed between the trailers and
the road allowing ample room for traffic and emergency vehicles. We have met with the
police department to coordinate this plan.
• Contractors will be working from approximately 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through
Friday and 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM on most Saturdays. No work will take place on Sundays.
Workers may be on site later than these times, but the use of equipment that generates
substantial noise will not be in use. After hours time will be used for cleanup of the days
• You may hear noise coming from the equipment required to be used by the contractors,
but it should not be as loud as what is currently taking place at the hospital’s construction
• The water tank will be drained of water for the entire time contractors are working on
site. The Marches Hill water tank (750,000 gallons) will be supplying water to the entire
City during the time this tank is out of service. You will not notice any change to the
pressure or supply of water being delivered to your home and you will still have adequate
fire protection.
• As much of the existing water in the tank will be used by the City as is possible. Not all
the water in the tank can be used because as the tank gets lower, the water pressure for
the City will also get lower. It is important to keep adequate pressure throughout the
water system at all times. Water that can not be used by the City will be drained to waste
over a 3-4 day period.

We appreciate your patience during this time of rehabbing the water tank. This project will
ensure the tanks integrity and allow service to the City for many years to come. Please contact
me at or (978)465-4466 with questions pertaining to the paint

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Free Cash"

An article in the Daily News today reports the State is close to certifying Free Cash for the City (and the other 350 communities in Massachusetts).

Here's a little supplemental information:

According to the State's definition, “Free Cash” means

Unrestricted funds from operations of the previous fiscal year that are certified by the

Director of Accounts as available for appropriation. Remaining funds include unexpended

free cash from the previous year, receipts in excess of estimates shown on the tax

recapitulation sheet, and unspent amounts in budget line-items. Unpaid property taxes

and certain deficits reduce the amount that can be certified as free cash. The calculation

of free cash is based on the balance sheet as of June 30, which is submitted by the

community's auditor, accountant, or comptroller.

Here are Newburyport’s figures for the end of these Fiscal Years. The dip in Free Cash in 2004 correlates to big drops in Local Aid from the State.

1999 908,551

2000 1,967,083

2001 2,258,675

2002 3,367,274

2003 2,194,161

2004 605,884

2005 642,831

2006 563,035

2007 677,042

2008 842,678

2009 1,281,624

2010 1,153,069

Of the 351 communities at the end of FY2010, 12 communities had negative Free Cash meaning they spent more than they took in….not good.

For FY 2011 Newburyport looks to have $1.5M certified which is an improvement in the raw number. However, our % of Free Cash compared to the overall budget (or roughly $1.5M/$49.1M=3%) will still be slightly less or close to the State average.

So the wild spending spree may need to be put on hold.

You can get all your own gory details at the State website:

Ed Cameron

Monday, August 15, 2011

Recap of City Council Meeting of August 8, 2011

This is a quick recap of the Newburyport City Council meeting August 8, 2011. All Councillors were present. The meeting was chaired by City Council President Thomas O’Brien.


There were a number of items in the consent agenda that were approved or referred to committee. The consent agenda is the mechanism the City Council uses to deal with matters that do not require separate discussion of each item. Collectively these items can be enacted in one motion and then dispensed of. Included in the consent agenda typically are the approval of minutes. In this night’s agenda, we approved a transfer of $27,500 from the Health Department Reserve for Appropriation account for solid waste. This is the money that the city collects each year from sticker fees and the recycling rebate. The funds can be used for different items related to recycling and composting. $20,000 was transferred for the expenses to run the compost transfer site and for removal of leaves and brush. This transfer is the normal new fiscal year transfer which anticipates expenses over the next 6 to 12 months. And another $7500 was transferred to pay for the expenses to run the recycling center on Crow Lane, including removal of hazardous waste, electronics, and other materials.

There was also a first vote on an appointment of Edward Ramsdell to the Local Historic District Study Committee. Ed is currently doing a great job as the chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals.


In the regular agenda the City Council approved 11 to 0 an order to create a downtown marker for former Mayor Byron Matthews. The marker would be placed on a portion of the paved brick space between the Green Street parking lot and Inn street, with an inscription recognizing the leadership of former Mayor who was mayor from 1968 to 1977 and was instrumental in the city’s rebirth.

After much discussion the City Council approved by an 11-0 vote a transfer of funds for major repairs and replacement of IT and phone equipment. The transfer request was a late file addition to the regular agenda. The Mayor requested a transfer of $417,832 from the City’s Capital Improvement Stabilization Fund to IT computer expense. The Mayor had originally proposed a much larger amount of funding in March of 2011 in which the city would spend $717,000 for a complete IT and phone overhaul which would include additional software known as SharePoint.

In April and May the City Council's Budget and Finance Committee which includes myself as chair and Councillors Cronin and Herzog reviewed the proposal during several meetings which included the City’s IT director and interested citizens. We had concerns about what the city was proposing to purchase which we relayed to the mayor. Subsequently the Mayor revised the proposal by taking out the SharePoint component but at the same time adding the purchase of two new (and needed)vehicles for the Department of Public Services. The Mayor proposed a bond authorization in the amount of $608,000. Because these are capital items, the mayor felt that this was the most appropriate funding mechanism and the cost could be spread over the useful life of these assets.

When members of the Council expressed concerns about the funding mechanism and taking on new debt, the Mayor further revised the proposal and pulled out the vehicles and found a way to pay for the IT replacement and phone replacement without taking on additional debt. The $417,832 will be transferred from the Capital Improvement Stabilization Fund in the short term; as soon as free cash and retained earnings in the water, sewer, and harbor enterprise accounts are certified, the Capital Improvement Stabilization Fund will be reimbursed from those accounts.

Since the current state of the City’s computer and phone systems is atrocious, these improvements were long overdue. This has been talked about in the years I've been on the Council since 2008. City Hall's level of customer service will be improved by this upgrade.

The Council approved by an 11 to 0 vote a second reading on an ordinance by which commercial and residential disposable trash in the downtown district must be placed in closed containers. Currently such disposable refuse in the downtown district is often placed in bags and ends up ripped and all over the place. The city's Recycling Coordinator Molly Ettenborough has worked very closely with the chamber of commerce and downtown businesses so that businesses will be able to make this modification. The end result will be a cleaner downtown.

The council approved by a 7-4 vote a second reading of an ordinance to modify fines related to dogs being off leash. These adjustments make the first offense for having a dog off leash anywhere in the city consistent with what the City Council enacted in the pilot dog off leash areas. That first offense shall be now punishable by a $50 fine. The ordinance was sponsored by Councillor Herzog. Those voting in favor were Cameron, Cronin, Earls, Heartquist, Herzog, Hutcheson, and Ives. Those opposed were Connell, Derrrivan, Jones, and O'Brien.

The Council also it proved a second reading of an ordinance related to including parts of Green Street, Washington Street and Pleasant Street as areas for resident parking which will ease residents’ concerns about parking during the hours of the city's parking program. The ordinance was approved by an 11-0 vote and was sponsored by Councillor Cronin.

Overall, I think it was a productive meeting. The improvements to the IT and phone system are necessary. And the simple change to the downtown trash problem will make for a better city.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Reasons to be thankful for union's presence

Great letter....

From the Daily News....August 3, 2011

To the editor:

As an American citizen, there are many things for which I am grateful. Sometimes I get caught up in the day-to-day craziness and I forget how good my life is. I lose perspective. Then, lo and behold, something comes along that gives me a big wake-up call. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 103 has done just that. Therefore, I would like to give credit and thanks to the IBEW Local 103 for raising my awareness to just some of my many blessings.

Thank you for the big ugly rat that you periodically place strategically in our beautiful city for all to see. The contrast reminds me how lucky I am to live in a community rich in history, wonderful architecture, culture and natural resources. It's too bad you don't appreciate, respect and love our city the way I do.

Thank you for galvanizing our community in its support of our wonderful community hospital, Anna Jaques, and its doctors, nurses and staff. It is heartwarming to see friends, neighbors, strangers, newcomers and those with differing political views and opinions unite behind Citizens Supporting Anna Jaques Hospital.

Thank you for the excuse to stand out and hold signs again. It's been a while and I had forgotten how much fun it is to have all those cars drive by and beep their horns in support, give me a big smile and an enthusiastic "thumbs up!"

Thank you for the "teachable moments" you have given us as we explain to our children why men who don't live here get paid a lot of money to stand around all day with a banner or hold onto a rat.

Thank you for motivating me to investigate for myself your allegations and insinuations regarding the hospital where my children were born, where they have been stitched up, X-rayed, patched up, poked and tested. The facts I learned from reliable and authoritative sources supported what I already knew from first-hand experience. Anna Jaques is a model community hospital that others strive to emulate.

Thank you for your presence, as it reminds me to thank the leadership of Anna Jaques Hospital ... the board, the management, the doctors ... who had the courage to make a decision that was in the best interest of my community hospital, working to ensure that my donations to capital campaigns were well-spent.

Thank you for moving me to ask about the other subcontractors working on the construction job at Anna Jaques, as I learned they are mostly union shops. The difference between them and you was that their bids were not a couple hundred thousand dollars more than the winning bid. (I'll bet you could have bought a lot more rats with all that money. No wonder you're mad.)

Thank you for giving the residents of Newburyport and surrounding communities the opportunity to teach our children that bullying and intimidation are wrong; to be positive role models for our children, as it is important to walk the talk and rise up against those who would bully and intimidate, to stand up for what is just and fair.

Thank you, IBEW Local 103. You've accomplished a lot. You can go away now.

Suzanne Cap