Councilors, Groups Fight Acre Prison Inmate Prerelease Home

Outgoing Essex County Sheriff Frank G. Cousins. (File photograph.)

City Council Vice President Melinda E. Barrett.

City Council Vice President Melinda E. Barrett.

Neighbors and some city officials are expressing outrage a three-family house on Fifth Avenue is quietly slated to become a prerelease home for nine prison inmates.

At the center of the controversy are suspicions the Essex County Sheriff’s Department is taking advantage of a poor neighborhood, failing to consider recovering inmates’ drug temptations in an area known for its illicit drug trade and engaged in secretive negotiations for the 36-38 Fifth Ave. building. City Council President John A. Michitson and Vice President Melinda E. Barrett said they learned about plans only late last week and called for a discussion Tuesday night to see if the plan can be legally halted.

“The city is more than bearing its social responsibility to take care of people,” Barrett told WHAV. “At some point the burden has to be spread around to different communities. We really are profoundly living up to our share. Some of these things have to exist in our society, but one community can’t absorb it all,” she added. Barrett said Haverhill’s relatively low property values seem to attract such proposals. Gary Greco paid $319,000 for the just under one-acre property a year ago, according to records.

Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson.

Haverhill City Council President John A. Michitson.

“We don’t have many details,” Michitson told WHAV. “A purpose of (Tuesday’s) meeting is to find out details and inform community.” He said the City Council and neighbors were never officially notified and “shocked” when they “found out through the grapevine.”

Michitson added he doesn’t know if the sheriff’s department wants to buy the nine-bedroom, three-bathroom multi-family home from Greco or lease it.

Upon learning of the plans Wednesday, Councilor Andy Vargas said he began notifying Acre neighborhood residents.

“Sad to see this almost fast-tracked through City Hall without notifying residents or the City Council. I notified residents immediately after Thanksgiving via personal messages and social media. This is exactly why we have neighborhood groups established!” Vargas said.

Stephen Arnold, administrator of the Acre Neighborhood Association Facebook page, took it from there.


City Councilor Andy Vargas.

“It’s apparently an unsupervised facility at Fifth and Cedar. I don’t personally feel it is a good location for inmates trying to recover,” Arnold told WHAV. He also expressed concern the city doesn’t have enough police officers such homes “should problems arise.” Police this year complained about their resources being tied up to tackle calls at group homes.

“Fifth Avenue has had a number of issues the past year, also several vacant homes in close proximity,” Arnold said. He added he fears the half-way house will discourage private interests that have already begun to transform the neighborhood.

“The Acre in the past year has finally begun to see some private investment going into vacant lots. I feel this will potentially scare off investment.”

Michitson said he invited City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. to Tuesday’s meeting to see if there may be a way to fight the parting gift from outgoing Sheriff Frank G. Cousins. Others say an informal opinion suggests the Sheriff’s Department needs only a building permit to move ahead.

Asked about the reaction to his social media plea for residents to attend the council meeting, Vargas said, “Folks are upset that they weren’t notified…I’m hoping to get a greater than usual crowd at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.” Referring to a promise by a Mount Washington neighborhood group, Urban Kindness, to back residents on the other side of the city, Vargas said, “I’m proud to see residents standing up and advocating for their neighborhood, and excited to watch other Haverhill neighborhood groups come together to support the acre neighborhood.”

The Haverhill City Council meets Tuesday night at 7, at Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers, City Hall, second floor.

18 thoughts on “Councilors, Groups Fight Acre Prison Inmate Prerelease Home

  1. Let’s ask the next question, when The sheriff retires who is he going to work for?
    What his relationship with the owner of these half way houses??
    I’m not sure mistah mayor is to blame but I would hope he and other officials take a long hard look at what is happening in the shoe city….
    Before you know it they’ll be trying to turn Harbor Towers into a half way house. Imagine it now, they can get an education at ULowell and study for the classes while sitting on the veranda overlooking the river.
    I wonder if they could play more games and stop dominos and make the Armenian church into a half way house.
    Oh the potential here in the shoe city…

    • “What his relationship with the owner of these half way houses??” –

      Go to tonights Council Meeting and maybe find out? I’m going to make the effort to make this one, if some of the “players” show up tonight, this should be fun.

      As an FYI, Cousins has enjoyed just under $2 million in political campaign contributions (over $80K from Haverhill donors), the latest of which dated 6/29/2016 is from Haverhill’s own, The Brian Dempsey Committee (Dempsey himself donated in 2015). The list of donors, a local, state, employees, and nepotistic wanna-be’s on both sides of the political aisle.

  2. This is a big issue in Haverhill. There is no open process that lets the neighborhood let alone the direct ab-utters whats going in next door. Having lived in a nice Haverhill neighborhood in Haverhill for many years I have had a group home just drop in next door out of no where. I had to really dig to find out what type of house or “group home” this would be. I also learned these homes can go anywhere with no notice to anyone. Take this as a notice to Haverhill residents….thinking that you live in a really nice high end neighborhood among similar homes will hold their value just wait till a group home moves in.
    I will go on record as stating there is no one in the city that knows just how many of these home exist not even and especially the mayor.

  3. I worked for the Essex County Sheriff’s Dept. for 34 years and it is a shame how Sheriff Cousins has made these halfway houses into a money making deal for the owners of the buildings. The inmates living in these houses are not getting the proper care to transition them back into society. Haverhill will now have 2 halfway houses in Haverhill that are not supervised.

  4. Acorn Andy Vargas…Isn’t a group home like this exactly what your hero Barry Hussein 0bama has been promoting with his prisoner release efforts the past couple of years? Where’s your compassion for your fellow man, Andy? Out of control liberalism looks a lot different when you come face to face with it, instead of sitting in a classroom being lectured to by the “never had a real job in their lives” progressive professors, doesn’t it Andy?

    Andy, do you even realize these prisoners are a by-product of your support for criminal trespassers living illegally in the City of Haverhill? Where exactly do you think the drugs are coming from that have effected these prisoners lives in the first place? Are you aware that a vast majority of people selling drugs in the city are in this country illegally? When you and the hack liberal mayor promote illegals in this city, going so far as to print up “Yo Vote`” stickers to give out to non-English speaking trespassers voting in Haverhill during the recent election, what exactly is it do you think you’re supporting? This is all on YOU, Andy….this is of your making via the support of liberal public policy.

    Andy, the real sad irony of this issue is that the uneducated, uninformed people in the neighborhood groups that don’t know how to connect the dots between liberal public policy and its effects on their lives and society are being conned by you and they don’t even know it.

      • Pounce? I was easy on the kid…lol.
        The funny thing is Dan, I don’t think he’s smart enough to even know how to make the connection between the liberal issues he supports and how to recognize their effects when they play out in the city. I’m simply making observations so people can be better educated when it comes time to vote. More importantly, I’m using this social media platform to try and get him to go on record with his positions on issues….which time and time again he refused to do.

        There are a couple of us on this site who take the time to point out the truth about the liberals running this city, especially this next generation politically indoctrinated liberal community organizer, and the effects they’re having on our daily lives. Too bad you aren’t one of them, Dan.

      • More than a little creepy. It’s an unhealthy obsession. Vargas has offered to meet him for coffee several times along with offering a phone number and email address. Jack likes to hide behind his keyboard, however.

        • What part of “go on record with his positions” did you not understand, Boomer?

          Add you to the list of people who comment on this site and do nothing but defend the corruption, lies and incompetence. Your comments here, and in the past in the ET, has proven you’re one of them.

          What better proof then to attack and try to discredit the messenger, right Boomer?

          • I’ve never once defended corruption, lies, or incompetence on this site or any other. I’m no liberal in any capacity. Registered Republican and no fan of the Mayor. Believe it or not, It’s possible for someone to disagree with you and not be a liberal hack supporter. I didn’t offer any support of anyone or anything in my comment. Not sure where you see that I have. I just offered some facts.

        • Boomer, disparaging me and my efforts to make public “at every opportunity” the agenda by the hack liberal mayor, city councilors and especially the new community organizer on the scene of Haverhill politics, comes across as support for ‘their’ cause. Get it? The vast majority of people I know pay very little attention to local politics and the decisions made by these looney liberals. For me to contribute to this article by hopefully educating people how these liberal’s support of open borders has had a direct linear effect on prisoners being housed in this city I believe adds value.

          I’ve spoken directly to local elected city officials more times than I can say. I’m not sure if you have done so yourself, but like speaking with politicians at every level, I have found it is a complete waste of time. As such, I’ve made a decision to use this social media platform to share observations and opinions. It’s a decision made necessary by these hacks themselves given they block people who comment on their Facebook pages if they provide comments and opinions contrary to the agenda they are trying to push. I use this site to try and get local politicians to “go on record” on where they stand on issues. If you didn’t know already, they ALL read what is being commented on here …. mayor Taxman told me so himself. And when they refuse to do so, as Vargas has done MANY times now, I am going to continue to bring up those issues and the fact he refuses to address them publicly. I believe that is information the public should know.

  5. Haverhill has always had a great relationship with Sheriff Cousins. We have supported him at the polls and he has provided us with manpower to clean the streets and remove graffiti etc. However doesn’t seem fair that he would do this to or attempt to on his way out. . Rehabbing prisoners has a positive affect on society and can work if approached with the input of our Council. The proposed neighborhood is fraught with problems now and we don’t need to add to them. Residential neighborhoods should be ruled out for this type of problem and perhaps the entire effort should await the newly elected sheriff

  6. It’s the perfect spot for such a facility.

    All their buddies are right nearby to lend moral support. Most, if not all, of the mothers of their children are in the area, so they can get to meet said kids for the first time and maybe give the kids a cut of their future business earnings as child support. Plus the recreational pastime they have always enjoyed and looked forward to is right there in the neighborhood, along with plenty of independent businesspeople more than happy to give them good jobs at good wages! Plus, they’re known in the area so they will be able to build important business contacts and be ready to jump into a prosperous business as soon as they shed the bracelet.

    What’s not to like?

  7. Very interesting proposal that it would have kept neighbors in the dark. I am aware of the same type of group homes in Lawrence that have been very problematic. Who is responsible for monitoring these homes ? What type of pre-release inmate is allowed at these homes ? Where does local oversight come in to play ? Did the Mayor consider these questions before he winked his approval ?