Haverhill Legislative Delegation Secures $250K for Hale Debt in 2020 House Budget

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A portion of the $78 million debt related to the city-owned Hale Hospital will be paid thanks to efforts by Haverhill’s legislative delegation, statehouse officials said following the confirmation of a balanced House budget Thursday.

State Reps. Andy Vargas, Linda Dean Campbell and Christina Minicucci teamed up to push through $250,000 toward payment of the liability Mayor James J. Fiorentini has called “the largest municipal debt in the history of the Commonwealth.”

“The Hale Hospital was a hospital that served the entire region—not just Haverhill—and it’s always been unfair that the taxpayers of Haverhill bore the entire burden,” Fiorentini told WHAV on Friday. “We thank Rep. Vargas and the legislative delegation for recognizing this.”

Fiorentini hopes state aid can free up money for education and community services.

“The money will allow us to do more of what we’d like to do: Boost money for public education and improve services in our community,” Fiorentini said. “The superintendent of schools put forth the budget that had some great goals. This money will get us a step closer toward meeting those goals.”

The longstanding debt has been a hot-button issue in recent weeks. During a March 27 City Council meeting, Council President John A. Michitson emotionally argued that had the city taxed a bit more the last three years, debts related to the city-owned hospital would have been paid off.

According to figures released last summer, the city still owes $4.5 million on deficits related to the hospital. The remaining debt is related to school construction, water and sewer costs and other borrowing.

Over the years, former sate Rep. Brian S. Dempsey delivered $22 million in additional state aid to help pay down the hospital debt. Last year during his first term in office, Vargas was able to obtain $340,000 in Special City Aid—considered substantial for a legislator of then only five months. However, it was far from the $2.4 million Dempsey, once chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, obtained most years.

Dempsey’s successor Vargas currently sits on the House Ways and Means Committee.

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