Haverhill Council Agrees City Will Borrow $853,000 for Design of $17 Million North Avenue Project

City Engineer John H. Pettis III. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill city councilors Tuesday gave the administration permission to borrow $853,000 to pay for design of a $17 million North Avenue road and bridge reconstruction project.

While actual project construction costs will be borne by the Federal Highway Administration and Massachusetts Department of Transportation, it is the city’s responsibility to pay for design and engineering. City Engineer John H. Pettis III said $853,000 was the low bid.

“So like most MassDOT projects, the construction ends up being funded 80 percent by the feds and 20 percent by the state. The city, however, is responsible for the design funds. So, we’ve identified that designer and are ready to go into contract with them and this would allow us to fund that design,” Pettis told councilors.

Mayor James J. Fiorentini noted previously the city has about $335,000 that could be applied to the project, but suggested, in light of anticipated problems with next year’s budget due to the coronavirus, the city should borrow the entire amount. Money on hand, he explained, may be used as a buffer against any shortfalls next year.

Construction on the roadway and Snow’s Brook Bridge is currently scheduled to begin in 2023, but the state has proposed moving it to 2026. Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan and the mayor agree the delay could cause major problems, particularly in light of critically needed repairs to the Frye Pond dam which is also part of the project. Sullivan asked state legislators to work on speeding up the timeline.

“We have a very good legislative delegation, but we are going to have to impress upon them that we need their help more than ever to move projects along such as this one,” Sullivan said.

In other business before the City Council, members agreed to postpone a presentation by Council Vice President Colin F. LePage until next week. The councilor was planning to discuss the results of his COVID-19-related stress survey at last night’s city council meeting but instead asked for a one-week extension to give him time to assemble all of the data he has been receiving.

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