As time draws nearer for Haverhill’s City Council and School Committee to expand their memberships, as approved by voters in the last election, some city councilors want updates on how well plans to modify the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. City Council Chambers to fit those new members are progressing.
Councilor Melinda E. Barrett said she and fellow councilor Thomas J. Sullivan spoke recently with mayoral Chief of Staff Chris Sicuranza who gave assurances.
“That they are thinking about this also. We do have some work to do. I don’t want us to be doing it in on January of next year when the new body is sworn in and we should work diligently to make whatever changes handicapped accessible,” she said.
Barrett said she believes the current room can be expanded as needed.
As of January 2024, the Council and School Committee will each be comprised of seven ward-based representatives. The Council will have four additional at-large members while the School Committee will have three additional members as well as the mayor in the role of tiebreaker.
Sullivan said accommodating these new members requires some significant work to make the necessary changes.
“There’s a lot of work to be done. We do need to make this chamber more accessible to disabled individuals. We also need to modernize our technology. We’ve asked for computers to be at each one of our stations up here so that we can probably, in the future, eliminate paper,” he explained.
Sullivan said the adjacent Council office also needs compact desks to allow for more room and the room between the office and the chamber will probably need to be repurposed as well. The councilor said the good news is there is money from the American Rescue Plan Act to make the necessary improvements.
Taking the discussion in a different direction, Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua said a far more important issue is informing Haverhill residents on where they will be voting in the next election. He said there is widespread confusion among voters as to where they will be casting their ballots.
City Clerk Linda L. Koutoulas responded the city has a number of tools to address the issue. She said the census that went out last year did have a notation on it telling residents where the new voting sites would be. She also identified some other ways.
“There’s a tool online called Where Do I Vote MA. Type in that address, that URl, take it to the secretary of state’s website and just type in your address, it will tell you exactly where you vote,” she said.
Koutoulas said the city will also be doing robocalls with that information before the next election.