Tracy Fuller, Haverhill YMCA’s regional executive director, was honored last week at the Massachusetts State House during the annual Commonwealth Heroines Celebration. Rep. Andy X. Vargas nominated Fuller in honor of her work in our community and her outstanding contributions to the YMCA. “Tracy works diligently every day to support Haverhill families. Most notably her leadership in providing childcare and after-school programs at the YMCA is critical in assisting our working parents and providing high-quality early education and care. Tracy is an incredible partner, and it was an honor to nominate her for this year’s Heroines award,” Vargas said.
Benjamin Jennell of West Newbury is one of 11 state wildland firefighters dispatched by Gov. Maura Healey’s administration to Quebec, Canada to help battle some of the more than 124 wildfires that have burned since the beginning of the month. Healey, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper and officials from the Department of Conservation and Recreation joined together last Thursday morning to send off the firefighter crew at DCR’s Bureau of Forestry and Fire Control headquarters in Carlisle. “Over the last several years we have seen the impacts of the climate crisis here at home and around the world, in the forms of extreme weather and increasingly severe wildfires that continue to ravage our forests,” said Healey. “We are proud of these 11 Massachusetts wildland firefighters who are heading up to assist our Canadian partners in battling these intense wildfires.”
The deployment came in response to a request the state received last week from the Northeast Forest Fire Protection Commission and the Northeastern Interagency Coordination Center at the White Mountain National Forest in Campden, N.H. The firefighters will travel to La Touque, where they will be assigned to one of many ongoing fire incidents throughout the province. The crew, which is also referred to as a “Wildfire Suppression Module,” will engage in direct fire suppression, working on the fire line for about 14 days—building fire breaks, securing fire perimeters, containing fires and protecting structures.
Essex County Greenbelt Association was awarded a $162,500 state grant Wednesday as part of the nonprofit’s continuing efforts to preserve land adjacent to Haverhill’s Crystal Lake drinking water supply. As only WHAV reported last fall, Greenbelt laid out plans to work with the city to jointly purchase development rights to 54 acres, buying 19 acres of land outright and accepting a donation of 15 acres of lakefront. At a neighborhood gathering last November, Greenbelt Vice President Christopher B. LaPointe outlined the urgency of the preservation effort. “If you can imagine these properties without trees…and with lawns and homes and driveways and dog waste and swimming pools and septic systems. All of that has to go somewhere and, in this case, that’s running into your drinking water,” he said. The grant is aimed preserving and using 18.61 acres of land for passive recreation, wildlife habitat and watershed protection purposes and is a part of a larger 88-acre protected area.
State Sen. Pavel Payano, representing Lawrence, Haverhill and Methuen, wants to reduce auto insurance rates in urban areas by making the statewide average part of the rating formula. Payano and other lawmakers are looking to change how heavily a resident’s ZIP code weighs in determining the cost of their auto insurance, claiming that people of color in low-income and urban areas pay higher rates. But insurance companies say the move would take away one of the only tools left for them to determine rates, and could raise insurance payments for all. “Right now in Massachusetts, residents living in urban and diverse communities are being forced to pay substantially more than their suburban counterparts for auto insurance,” said Payano, who filed a bill that would change the rating formula to give no more than 75% weight to a person’s local area and 25% weight to a statewide average, aimed at tempering the rates in urban areas. Payano based the formula off of Connecticut’s insurance rating territory policy.
One of the new undersecretaries in the reorganized state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development received her start as a Haverhill City Hall staffer 16 years ago. Sarah A. Stanton is taking charge of one of the “three pillars of economic development,” Economic Strategies, under Housing and Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao. Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini told WHAV he hired Stanton right out of school as his executive assistant. He said he is not surprised by her advancement over the years. “She was a really bright kid.
Grants of $50,000 each to Haverhill groups to support small business, defray the cost of building accessory apartments at private homes, help pay for a public art project and aid grade-level reading are among priorities Haverhill Rep. Andy X. Vargas won this week in amendments to the House spending plan. Vargas also said support for veterans’ programs, repairs at two city parks and permanent free school meals were included in the proposed state budget for the year beginning July 1. The budget remains to be reconciled with a state Senate version and be signed by Gov. Maura Healey to take effect. “This balanced budget represents the needs of families and of Haverhill. The funding secured for local projects will help our community’s veterans, assist in restoring our parks, support public art and boost accessible housing,” Vargas said in a statement.
Though regional school districts could receive more money to pay for student transportation than they’ve received in years through Gov. Maura Healey’s current budget proposal, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees says it is still hoping for long-promised full help from the state. The law entitles regional school districts, such as those in rural areas, to a 100% reimbursement for school transportation expenses, but state funding has consistently fallen short of this benchmark, leaving municipalities to pick up the expenses. Locally, Pentucket Regional School District Superintendent Justin Bartholomew has repeatedly raised similar concerns during interviews over WHAV. Association President Andrea Wadsworth said the state originally promised to reimburse the costs as an incentive to regionalize districts that take up large areas of land but have fewer students, where bus rides are longer and more expensive. It has been funded around 65 to 75% for the past few years, meaning Healey’s commitment to cover 90 percent of the cost to get students to school was well-received by municipal leaders at the Local Government Advisory Committee.
It was a grant of a lifetime…and then it wasn’t. Yesterday, WHAV reported Ruth’s House, a popular Lafayette Square thrift shop with a charitable mission, was to receive a nearly $100,000 state grant to bolster security. The information came Wednesday in a press release from the state Office of Grants and Research. The release clearly listed “Ruth’s House, Haverhill, $98,797.02” under Commonwealth Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Unfortunately, the state admitted Thursday, that despite listing “Haverhill” specifically, the grant was actually awarded to JGS Housing Services, doing business as Ruth’s House of Longmeadow, a nonprofit assisted living facility.