Haverhill Councilors Advance Plans for New Business Park at Former Dutton Airport

The Haverhill City Council this week approved the first step toward creating a new business park at the former Dutton Airport site, off Interstate 495 near Northern Essex Community College. Councilors agreed Tuesday to modify site zoning from “office park” to “business park” and overlay a “commercial highway” zone by a vote of 8-0. Haverhill Director of Economic Development and Planning William Pillsbury Jr. gave an overview of plans. “The new business park would be on the north side of Route 110 where we will create a new roadway entrance with a signalized intersection across from Elliot Street. And, I want to point out very clearly, this will be the only entrance to the business park.

Fiorentini Says ‘AA’ Rating Lowers Consentino Interest Bill; Mayor Hedges on Need for Prop 2 ½ Relief

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini said a credit agency’s recent bond rating of “AA” saves taxpayers $2.4 million in interest over an “A” rating when borrowing for a new Dr. Albert B. Consentino School. The mayor’s announcement, however, hedged for the first time on a prediction the city can afford the new school without asking voters to grant relief from the state’s tax-limiting law, Proposition 2 1/2. “Over the years, we have held a tight rein on spending and increased our reserves to the adequate number we have today. This makes it possible to do the Consentino School, possibly without a debt exclusion, which would never have been possible with the low bond rating the city had when I started.”

Fiorentini explained the city’s bond rating has steadily improved from “Baa3” when he became mayor in 2004. At that time, he said, Haverhill and Springfield were tied for the lowest municipal bond ratings in Massachusetts.

NECC Observer School Paper Wins Gold Medal for its Pandemic Perseverance Online

Northern Essex Community College’s student newspaper, the NECC Observer, was awarded a gold medal from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association for its work and perseverance operating during the pandemic. During the 2020-2021 school year, the student newspaper did not have a print edition, but stories continued to be posted to its website. Judges wrote the Observer should be proud of what it accomplished under such difficult circumstances. The Observer was also awarded a gold medal for its work during the prior school year, when it was also all online. The newspaper had the additional distinction of All Columbia Honors for receiving an exceptionally high judging score that year.

Looming Showdown Over Fire Department Staffing Threatens Mayor’s Haverhill Spending Plans

Haverhill councilors are one vote away from another budget showdown with the mayor over staffing in the fire department. Councilors Monday night in 4-4 tie votes both rejected Mayor James J. Fiorentini’s $12 million spending plan for the fire department and a motion to increase minimum shift manning. The latter vote was largely symbolic since councilors may not add money to spending under the city charter. They, however, reserve the right to kill the budget outright. Fire Chief Robert M. O’Brien acknowledged he negotiated with the mayor to achieve a slight increase in his budget, but it is less than he requested.

Native American Commemorative Task Force Discusses Monument Plans Thursday

Haverhill’s Native American Commemorative Task Force meets Thursday night to continue planning for the eventual creation of a historical memorial geared to the heritage of the city’s indigenous population. Chair Dan Speers says discussion includes setting the parameters of the group’s mission and considering various proposals for incorporating new signage; possible changes to the existing Hannah Duston statue at Grand Army of the Republic Park, downtown; possible park expansion and locations; and the use of new statuary. “In terms of culture, heritage and history, we need to consider what individuals or groups we ask to submit research or documentation that will be considered for inclusion in the project. In terms of scope, we need to begin consideration of what aspects of current or proposed statuary might be considered, and at what location,” Speers says in an agenda posting. Task Force members plan a project that “celebrates the history and heritage of the indigenous communities that lived, thrived and prospered in the pre-Columbian Merrimack Valley; provides accurate historical perspectives on what transpired and happened to these peoples on the arrival, disruption and colonization by Europeans; and  inspires this and coming generations with the knowledge and confidence that while we are correcting and recognizing the inequities, stresses and sacrifices of the past, our goal is to foster cultural and ethnic unanimity.”

The in-person meeting takes place Thursday, May 26, 7 p.m., at City Hall, room 301, 4 Summer St., Haverhill.

MakeIt Haverhill Accepts Award as Champion for Essex County

MakeIt Haverhill, a volunteer-operated organization focusing on innovative workforce development solutions, was recognized last week as a “Champion for Essex County.”

The organization, geared to residents of Haverhill’s Mount Washington neighborhood, was honored during Essex County Community Foundation’s eighth annual Celebration of Giving at North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly. Tim Haynes, MakeIt Haverhill’s digital literacy and equity program leader, accepted the award alongside Christine Kwitchoff, the organization’s workforce development lead. Haynes thanked the Foundation Director of Strategic Initiatives, Community Leadership Kate Machet and the organization “for all of their incredible support as we just started our digital equity journey about a year ago, and their support has been incredible.”

“We want equity and inclusion for all Haverhill residents and for communities everywhere,” Haynes added. “And, as long as we can make a difference by giving our time and our love, we will lift up our neighbors. So, thank you very much.”

Foundation Board Chair John Colucci said the honored individuals and organizations embody the “triad of philanthropy.”

Besides MakeIT Haverhill, Doneeca Thurston, executive director of Lynn Museum/Lynn Arts, was recognized for her work as a creative leader, social activist and thoughtful mentor of Lynn-area youth.

John Greenleaf Whittier School Drama Club Presents ‘Moana JR’ June 3-5

The John Greenleaf Whittier School Drama Club is planning its production of Disney’s “Moana JR,” a 60-minute musical adaptation of the 2016 Disney animated film. Director Bobby Gariepy says students will bring the adventures of Moana and her village of Motunui to life onstage with all the beloved songs from the film. Performances take place Friday and Saturday, June 3 and 4, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, June 5, at 2 and 5 p.m., at the Dr. Albert B. Consentino School, 685 Washington St., Haverhill, and online. General admission tickets are $10 at the door or $8 in advance or for students or seniors. Advance tickets and virtual performance information may be found here.

Haverhill Councilors to Decide Zoning Changes Tonight to Advance Re-use of Former Dutton Airport

Plans to convert the former Dutton Airport into Haverhill’s newest business park comes before the Haverhill City Council tonight for zoning changes. The former airport, off Route 110 near Kenoza Lake, closed in 1987. As WHAV first reported two years ago, the city’s new master plan envisioned the land and another site off Route 97 be used as business parks, but were placed on hold while landowners were consulted. Haverhill Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr. outlined the concept in 2020. “Those two industrial parks are conceived.