Haverhill Mayor Reconsiders Seeking State Aid for Whittier School; Will Submit HHS Roof

Mayor James J. Fiorentini says he may have erred when he told a school parent activist the city would not submit a request to the state this year to replace the John Greenleaf Whittier School. Fiorentini acknowledged sending parent Paige Caswell the bad news in an email last Thursday. He says, though, he doesn’t want to raise “false hope” the Massachusetts School Building Authority will accept the project. He told WHAV, “I’m still hoping Whittier will be in the pipeline, but there’s no chance the state will approve it. They made it crystal clear.

Haverhill’s Comcast Contract Stalls as Negotiating Partner Becomes Brockton’s New Mayor

Haverhill has been on the verge of inking a new contract with Comcast for some months now, but the city lost its negotiating partner when, of all things, the cable representative was elected mayor of Brockton. Comcast Senior Manager Robert F. Sullivan was sworn in as Brockton’s mayor Jan. 6 after taking about 60 percent of the vote last November. He began campaigning for the seat last July when that city’s mayor, William Carpenter, died in office unexpectedly. That was about the time Haverhill was wrapping up talks with Sullivan.

New or Renovated Whittier Tech on the Way After School Building Authority Deems it Eligible

A new or substantially renovated Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School is on the horizon. After five annual submissions, the Massachusetts School Building Authority last month invited the nearly 50-year-old school into its eligibility period. The designation means Whittier Tech must now form a local building committee. Superintendent Maureen A. Lynch last night told members of the Haverhill Education Coalition Whittier Tech was forced to take steps after Haverhill building officials declared no more renovations may take place. Inspectors said the school needs a modern sprinkler system, among other updates, to continue growing.

City Signs Pact with Mellow Fellows, But Concedes Gift to School Drug Prevention Programs ‘Voluntary’

While Mayor James J. Fiorentini has signed the fourth and last host community agreement with a recreational marijuana retailer, questions remain as to whether the city can count on money from the businesses for substance abuse prevention programs.

Last Friday, Fiorentini signed an agreement with Mellow Fellows for its 330 Amesbury Road location. It calls for, among other things, a Community Impact Fee of 3% of gross sales to paid to Haverhill for five years. When city councilors approved Mellow fellows’ special permit last August, members conditioned approval on the operation also paying the school department $22,000 a year for three years. Since then, U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling has called into question the legality of those extra payments. Taking no chances, Fiorentini told WHAV Tuesday, the city now considers any extra contributions above the state-allowed 3% as “voluntary.”

School pediatrician John L. Maddox first championed the idea last May of asking retailers to pay for substance abuse prevention and addiction programs be paid by applicants.

Haverhill Councilors to Reconsider Vote of Required Parking Licenses for Downtown Marijuana Retailer

Haverhill city councilors will try again tonight to grant licenses for two parking spaces—that the body, itself, required—to a planned downtown marijuana retailer. Early last month, councilors defeated the police department-recommended parking license for Haverhill Stem, 124 Washington St., when the vote fell short because of opposition from City Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua and an unusual number of member absences. Councilors voted 4-1 to approve the use of two city-owned parking spaces on Phoenix Row, but five votes were required. Normally, the City Council does not allow a repeat petition for six months, but its rules allow exceptions. All but two city councilors last week consented in writing to allowing the parking license to return to the agenda.

Public Meetings This Week: Lawrence Planner Set to Become MVPC’s Next Executive Director

The public has opportunities to shape policy this week as various Haverhill boards meet. In the interest of transparency in government, WHAV provides this list of upcoming meetings every week. The Merrimack Valley Planning Commission is ready to name one of its own as the agency’s next executive director. Theresa Park, Lawrence’s planning director and chairwoman of the Commission since 2017, was selected as the finalist for the position recently vacated by Karen Sawyer Conard. Conard was named Portsmouth, N.H., city manager.

Council to Decide Tuesday on Granting Permits for More Downtown Haverhill Apartments

More housing is coming to downtown Haverhill if the Haverhill City Council approves a special permit to build five rental apartments above Olivia’s restaurant. Members are also expected to schedule a public hearing on a plan for nine apartments at the former Haverhill TV and Appliance building. Councilors tomorrow night will hear plans by Phil Rice of Krueger LLP to build five rental apartments on the second, third and fourth floors of the building at 142 Essex St. The address will be known as 4 Batchelder Court. Housing is allowed under the city’s Smart Growth Overlay District for downtown.

Should Haverhill Elect Councilors by Ward? Jan. 23 Public Forum Aims to Provide Answers

Changing Haverhill’s charter to include election of city councilors by neighborhood is the focus of an upcoming forum, “Exploring the Possibility of Neighborhood Representation.”

Discussion about electing the majority of the City Council by ward has been growing since speaker Dan McGraw addressed the Council in 2015 on prospective “changes to the city charter with respect to the election of city councilors and ward representation.” The matter picked up steam during recent city electioneering with Mayor James J. Fiorentini referencing it during his campaign kick-off, City Councilor William J. Macek placing it on that body’s agenda and Council candidate Nicholas Golden advocating for the change. The City of Lowell, settling a federal court case over the voting rights of minorities, also agreed recently to end the practice of electing all of its city councilors and school committee members at large. Instead, under the terms of a consent decree, Lowell will elect all or a majority of elected seats by individual districts prior to the elections of 2021.”

At his re-election kick-off, Fiorentini said 20% of the city’s population is Latino and deserves representation. “Our City Council and our School Committee no longer represent all of our city and it’s time for ward councilors and I am proud to endorse that here tonight. It’s time to change our charter so that we have people elected in every ward and in every section of our city,” Fiorentini told supporters.