As Expected, Haverhill Councilors Agree to Spend Half Million of Surplus on Fire Station

Members of the Haverhill Fire and Police Department Honor Guards at a 9/11 remembrance at the Water Street fire station. (WHAV News file photograph)

As expected, Haverhill city councilors agreed Tuesday night to spend $500,000 of the city’s $11.5 million surplus on beginning repairs to the Water Street central fire station.

As WHAV was the first to report Nov. 14 and confirmed again last week, Mayor James J. Fiorentini agreed to spend the surplus—known as “free cash”— for “necessary repairs and improvements to the Water Street Fire Station.” At last week’s mayor and City Council conference, covered by WHAV News, Fiorentini said he did not know why an item to borrow the money had been included on the City Council agenda. The issue did bring a rebuke from Joy Smith, 923 Amesbury Road.

“I can’t believe we’ve let our buildings get to the point that they’re at,” she said.

Smith called for studies to determine if the city has the correct number of fire stations, whether they can house larger fire engines and where they should be located. Living on the outskirts of the city, she said she is concerned firefighters wouldn’t make it to her home quickly enough in an emergency. Noting she is a Type 1 diabetic, she pointed out in humorous fashion that firefighters have been called to her home.

“You wake up, fire people all over your bed and think, ‘oh gee, I had a good night last night’ and go, nah, I don’t think I did,” Smith said. The comment brought laughs, and Councilor Michael S. McGonagle, pointing to firefighters in the room, retorted, “nothing against you guys.”

Last week, Consultant Michael “Pieter” Hartford said Water Street repairs are focused on replacing the roof, repairing or replacing windows, sealing or repointing bricks on the tower, cleaning ductwork and assessing the condition of a steel beam. While the beam is being reviewed by Bergman and Associates, Hartford noted there does not appear to be any deflection. He said the priority should be on weatherproofing the building before tackling interior issues.

Smith also raised concern about the city’s animal shelter, calling it “inadequate” and “disgusting.” Councilor agreed and told Smith they have received assurances from the mayor that a new building is in the works.

Councilors voted 6-0 to substitute using surplus money instead of borrowing. Three councilors—President John A. Michitson, William J. Macek and Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien were absent.

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