Haverhill Adopts 1/12 Budget, Averting City Hall Closure Today, in Dispute Over Fire Trucks

Haverhill City Hall. (WHAV News file photograph.)

The City of Haverhill has a budget—at least for the month of July.

For a while last night, the City Council turned down Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s $205.5 million budget request for the year that starts today. Councilors rejected the full-year budget primarily because a separate borrowing order did not include money for a second new fire truck.

After the initial rejection, the mayor called the vote “reckless and irresponsible,” saying “Unless there is a change of vote tonight, there is no money to run city government starting tomorrow morning and city hall will be closed.” The mayor did not attend the meeting because of a death in his family.

Councilors voted 7-1 Monday to ask the mayor replace two 33-year-old fire trucks (see earlier story), but the mayor stood by his bond request for $521,000—the cost of a single vehicle.  Councilor Timothy J. Jordan spoke for a number of councilors when he said that simply was not acceptable.

“This kind of goes back to the safety of our firefighters, who we all know, risk their lives by going out on the job. You know you get two tires that are way too old and bad and let’s just replace one and decide to do the other one later. It doesn’t make any sense. We need to do both now,” he said.

As a result, by a vote of 6-3, with Councilors Joseph J. Bevilacqua, Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien and Thomas J. Sullivan dissenting, the Council shot down the budget in its entirety.  The group did agree, however to put the bond order for the single truck on file for 10 days.

Later in the evening as the Council was preparing to adjourn, President Melinda E. Barrett called for a surprise recess, which lasted for about a half-hour. When the council reconvened, there was a new proposal to replace the full year budget with a one-twelfth budget, which would finance the city for the month of July.

Vice President Colin F. LePage explained that he and Barrett talked with the mayor during the recess and came to a compromise that would give them time to work on getting a second firetruck and still keep the city functioning.

“So, the one-twelfth budget is the compromise that we have at this moment in time, which would be the compromise the council could make. At some point in time we can commit to a full budget, whenever that is but that is how it is set up. Nothing was changing as far as putting a second truck in at this moment in time. But this is how we see a path forward at this moment in time,” he said.

The one-twelfth budget will provide just over $12.9 million for the month of July.

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