Haverhill Elections by Ward and Money for New Industrial Park Stall as Legislature’s Session Ends

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues." (Sam Doran/SHNS.)

Potential candidates for next year’s Haverhill City Council and School Committee elections have to wait a little longer to find out how state legislators will act on a bill to require elections mostly by ward.

The city’s home rule petition and an economic development that would benefit Haverhill newest industrial park were both victims of the state legislature’s last-minute rush to move bills out.

As WHAV previously reported, the home rule petition was approved by the House in May, but ran out of time in the Senate. The economic development bill was pulled at the last minute while legislators wrestle with the revelation a 1986 law may trigger $3 billion in tax relief.

“The conference committee is working to re-examine the bill and find a way to move it forward that works in harmony with the 1980s tax law. Our office is working with the information we have to ensure that the economic development grants for Haverhill make it through, as well as other policy priorities of the representative’s regarding housing in particular,” state Rep. Andy X. Vargas’ office told WHAV.

The economic development package contained, among other things, $400,000 to redevelop the former Dutton Airport into Haverhill’s newest business park.

Vargas says all is not lost as home rule petitions are not subject to rules regarding formal and informal sessions.

Changes to the way Haverhill conducts elections was endorsed by voters last year by a 2-1 margin and, subsequently, approved by the City Council and mayor. It was sent to the legislature for enactment. It would amend the city charter, expanding the City Council to 11 members with seven city councilors elected by ward with four others elected at-large. The School Committee will have seven ward members, three citywide representatives and the mayor as tiebreaker.

An additional change eventually reduces School Committee terms from four to two years. Those elected to four-year terms last November will be permitted to complete their durations.

The economic development bill decision also means the one-time rebates of $250 to eligible individual taxpayers and $500 to married taxpayers who filed jointly, which lawmakers have promoted in recent weeks, will not be issued, Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues said.

State House News Service contributed to this report.

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