Updated: A sentence was added to detail the mayor’s response.
Officials are calling it an oversight, but at least one Haverhill city councilor wants to know why the city hasn’t collected two years of mortgage payments on land below downtown’s newest building.
Council Vice President Colin F. LePage says “The Heights” 10-story Merrimack Street building under construction by developer Salvatore N. Lupoli, owes more than $225,333. Assuming the payments on the purchase of city-owned land are made, LePage adds the money can be spent right away on such things as new fire trucks. Mayor James J. Fiorentini says he is not worried about receiving the money.
“We’ll reach out to Mr. Lupoli and if he hasn’t made the payments—he doesn’t have an occupancy permit so I’m certain he will,” the mayor said. Asked by WHAV if the matter was an oversight, the mayor responded, “I’m sure it is. We don’t have any dispute with him. We’ll get a hold of him and see what the story is. I’m not familiar with it right now.”
LePage has developed a reputation over the years for finding money in obscure city accounts and pushing to use it for major projects. He flagged the Lupoli agreement two years ago, noting the annual payment would close a budget gap and allow councilors to vote for a compromise spending plan. This year, he was one of six councilors to vote down Fiorentini’s budget because the mayor didn’t commit to replacing two 33-year-old fire trucks now in standby service.
LePage is asking the full Council next Tuesday to discuss the “oversight and enforcement of terms and conditions of city negotiated contracts with private parties.”
In 2016, Lupoli agreed to pay $701,000 to buy the city’s Riverfront Promenade parking lot between Rent-A-Center and Haverhill Bank on Merrimack Street. In a revised 2017 purchase agreement, the developer agreed to pay $25,000 down and $112,666 a year for the property.
LePage said it is unusual for the city to carry mortgages, noting it required full payment for the sales of a building behind City Hall and the Ornsteen property in Bradford. In fact, he said, it was the recent Ornsteen agreement that made him check the status of “The Heights.”