Whittier Tech Building Committee Disbands; City Councilors Make Suggestions for Future Projects

Artist’s rendering of the proposed replacement Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School. (Courtesy graphic.)

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The Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School Building Committee, which drafted the plans rejected by the school’s 11 sending communities at last week’s vote, was disbanded Tuesday.

Mayor Melinda E. Barrett shared the news with Haverhill city councilors last night after Councilor Catherine P. Rogers raised the topic for discussion.

Asked about next steps, Superintendent Maureen Lynch told WHAV after the meeting, “I’m being very honest…We are still looking at all of our options.”

Rogers expressed concern about the future of public school projects in Haverhill, noting a recent decline in reimbursement money from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Council President Thomas J. Sullivan said he and Rogers discussed what the city could do to make school building projects more palatable for voters.

“The Whittier vote showed us that the taxpayers are tired and they can’t afford to keep paying the local share for the construction of new schools,” he said. “They showed it in the outcome of the election. We need to go to the state and to the federal government.”

In addition to looking to outside entities, Councilor John A. Michitson suggested the city plan better for future expenditures. Despite knowing about the three school building projects in advance, he said the city gave around $40 million in tax breaks in recent years. Haverhill had used surpluses—known as free cash—to reduce the amount of property tax increases.

According to Barrett, the Authority will not consider reimbursing a Whittier Tech rebuild anytime soon. “We’ll have to proceed with whatever repairs are necessary and foot that bill,” she said.

One urgent repair is the wastewater treatment plant, which Council Vice President Timothy J. Jordan urged the council to keep an eye on when determining the budget, as its cost will not be reimbursed.

Rogers motioned to send the state a letter asking them to examine the formula used to determine the Authority’s reimbursement rate for school building projects. The motion passed unanimously.

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