Council President Says ‘It Remains to be Seen’ Whether Haverhill Body Accepts Mayor’s Compromise

Haverhill City Council President Melinda E. Barrett. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini offered some compromises Monday night to city councilors considering his spending plan, but Council President Melinda E. Barrett said “it remains to be seen” whether he will win over the body.

Fiorentini agreed to hire a second “behavioral response” worker for the police department, but not for six months; hire an assistant harbormaster for the fire department; cede more control of shared building maintenance to the school department; increase the salary of the city’s lead nurse as she assumes control of a planned Public Health Department; and other items. Barrett noted some councilors feel strongly about having two clinicians on board to handle mental health issues outside of the police department’s scope of expertise.

“He claims he’s going to fill the two positions—one now and one in January. That’s a long, hot summer before we have even part of the hours covered for a full week of days,” Barrett said.

Fiorentini’s adjustments add about $34,000 to the budget. Councilors said an additional $5,700 for the fire department would pay for an assistant harbormaster likely filled by former City Councilor and School Committee member Sven A. Amirian. Haverhill Facilities Director Stephen D. Dorrance, who had been committing about a quarter of his time to city building needs, will now reduce that to 10% in order to remain focused on school buildings.

The mayor presented councilors with a letter signed by interim Police Chief Anthony L. Haugh and Capt. Robert P. Pistone, who observed the use of a behavioral response unit in Orange County, Fla. The letter asks for the second clinician from Lahey Behavioral Health, but only after the department works through “growing pains” with the first one.

Former Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro requested two “behavioral response” workers, telling WHAV in March that mental health issues have been at the root of several high-profile incidents of violence across the country as well as locally.

Barrett also expressed concern that the mayor chose not to add five more police officers as requested by the department.

Haverhill City Councilors pushed ahead the deadline to Tuesday, June 22 for acting on the city’s spending plan that begins July 1.

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