Ouster of Commissioner Follows Notice of City’s Tree-Cutting Violation

Former Conservation Commissioner Brent Baeslack, left, with City Council President John A. Michitson during a tour last fall of a proposed site organics-to-energy plant in Ward Hill. (WHAV News photograph.)

This week’s ouster of a Haverhill Conservation Commission member comes on the heels of that board citing the city for excessive tree cutting without permits along the Merrimack River.

The Commission issued a violation notice April 20 after the city hired a contractor to cut trees along the river, off Water Street. Longtime Commissioner Brent Baeslack won’t be participating in the resolution of the matter tonight when the board likely orders the city to replant 61 trees. He was replaced Tuesday by Mayor James J. Fiorentini.

“I honestly do not know, nor was anything shared with me on the part of the mayor, as to what led or what precipitated his call, informing me that I was being replaced,” Baeslack told WHAV.

He said he was replaced even though the commission is already short two of its seven members.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini. (WHAV News photograph.)

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini. (WHAV News photograph.)

Fiorentini, however, told WHAV he is unaware of other empty seats on the board. The intent behind replacing Baeslack is to have “new blood” on city boards. “He served altogether about 20 years. We thank him for his service. I want to give new people a chance. I can’t give new people a chance if I keep reappointing the same old people,” the mayor said.

Baeslack countered the mayor contradicted himself by offering him a seat on another board.

“And, you’re making this choice based on my age, which I’m not sure I actually look my age, why then would it be acceptable to move me to some other board or commission?”

Baeslack, who was first appointed by Mayor Theodore A. Pelosi Jr., has served 18 of the last 30 years. During that time, he said, he has developed a reputation as a “straight-shooter.” He acknowledges he may have ruffled feathers by holding the city accountable.

“So, probably you can fault me for the fact that if the City of Haverhill was in conflict, or not in compliance with environmental regulations, that I would be a firm advocate for the city returning to compliance and, in fact, adhering to environmental regulations.”

He explained the city once had a permit for riverside cutting, but it expired and never included the scope of work that took place this spring.

“I believe the city, as well as private individuals and private property owners and developers, all need to be held to the same standards because the regulations do not make any differentiation between municipal entities, state entities, federal or private individuals. They all need to comply with the environmental regulations.”

If the Conservation Commission had not issued a “cease and desist” order, Baeslack said, the state Department of Environment Protection could have stepped in since the tree cutting was so “so glaring and so out in the public.” Baeslack’s day job for the last 13 years has been as conservation agent for the Town of Rowley.

Fiorentini defended the tree-cutting along Water Street.

“In 14 years as mayor, that’s the most popular thing I have ever done. People love that project.”

Baeslack said he learned of his removal at 9 a.m., Tuesday, the same day the City Council learned of the mayor’s appointment of Ralph Basiliere to the Commission. Council President John A. Michitson said he plans to honor Baeslack next week.

“I plan on bringing in a citation for the probably 30 years of volunteerism that he has done for the City of Haverhill,” Michitson said.

5 thoughts on “Ouster of Commissioner Follows Notice of City’s Tree-Cutting Violation

  1. So using the Mayors’ logic, if it was popular to do something then it is ok to do it regardless of the law ? Oh wait yes, he is right because he wants Haverhill to flaunt federal law regarding illegal immigrants. So, yes, the ends DO justify the means ! Bring on sanctuary status and damn the law !

  2. What is it with this hack mayor and “trees”?

    Jimmy Taxman, what do people say about you clear cutting an entire forest at Kenosa Lake so you could generate just $11,000 for your failing administration? You ruined a beautiful natural resource in the city all for a few bucks.

    The problems in the Washington Street area are a secret to no one. How is the mayor addressing them? He’s over there doing photo opps recently with a tree planting project. Talk about a looney liberal trying to mask a problem by putting a silly band-aid on it. He’s so ridiculous he was touting that one of the benefits for the people in the area was that the trees would produce “oxygen”. I wish I was making that up.

    Now we got the city spending money to a private contractor to cut trees down, in violation of regulations, and will spend more money to replant new trees. Literally everything this mayor touches is a disaster.

  3. Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck….
    “The most popular thing goes done in 14yrs”. what’s that tell you about your time in office..

    • Well said Danny. Imagine the being remembered for cutting trees along the river. Oh, what is your legacy Mr. Mayor, trees ? Hahahaha How about endlessly patronizing the residents of Haverhill, that sounds better !