Haverhill Budget Up for a Vote Tonight; Councilors ask for Fire Truck, Library Spending Increase

Haverhill Fire Chief William F. Laliberty. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Click image for Haverhill City Council agenda.

It’s up to the Haverhill City Council tonight to decide whether the mayor’s $205.5 million meets with its approval. Councilors, however, gave indications last night there could still be a showdown over buying another fire truck and giving the public library enough money to win accreditation.

At last night’s final budget session, councilors voted 7-1 to ask Mayor James J. Fiorentini to approve two new fire trucks at the top of the fleet to force out two 33-year-old trucks in standby service. The mayor previously agreed to replace one at a cost of $521,000, but Councilor Colin F. LePage, among others, told the mayor the old Hahn trucks use open cabs and are dangerous.

“It’s just doing a piecemeal approach. They have obsolete parts. It’s an unsafe truck and, now, you’re making one area of the city more safe with a newer truck in rotation. I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t put that,” he said.

LePage argued that Fire Chief William F. Laliberty’s efficiencies mean the department is returning $400,000 to the city and there may be a substantial discount for buying two new trucks now.

Fiorentini said he expected the City Council to be pleased he agreed to buy one new truck. He said further discussion of new equipment must wait until he prepares a capital spending plan later this year.

“I really don’t think we should spend anything else at this point. I’m very nervous about this budget,” he said.

The mayor explained he based his budget on level aid from the state, but everything could change if the state makes cuts. Moreover, he said, the wall behind City Hall needs $100,000 in repairs which would compete with the fire truck.

Councilors argued they simply want the mayor to obtain prices for two trucks by tonight’s vote before deciding. Councilor Timothy J. Jordan argued the city is already late replacing fire trucks by nearly a decade. He explained interim Fire Chief John E. Parow, who served until 2016, put the city on a plan to replace vehicles on a 24-year-cycle. Council President Melinda E. Barrett, saying now is the time to cash in on “fire sale prices,” quoted from her family lore.

“If anything my mother taught me, it is when there’s a deal, you take it,” she said.

A motion Councilor John A. Michitson, asking the mayor to make a commitment for a second engine, was approved with Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien voting against and Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua missing the vote because of a technical glitch during the remote meeting.

Fiorentini also refused to commit to adding $55,000 more to the Haverhill Public Library budget. Councilors argued it is embarrassing to ask the state to grant an accreditation waiver 17 out of 19 years. The mayor did agree to pay $100,000 for a “snow guard” at the Haverhill Police Station. The canopy-like structure is needed to protect officers and the public from snow falling off the solar panels on the building.

Comments are closed.