Four Haverhill Firefighters Receive Injuries Knocking Down Orchard St. Blaze; Fire Displaces Two Families

Two Haverhill families were displaced and several firefighters injured just before the season’s first snowfall following a kitchen fire late Thursday night. Fire broke out just before 11:30 p.m., in a second-floor apartment at 20 Orchard St. Fire Chief William F. Laliberty said an initial investigation suggests “unattended cooking” is to blame. He explained fire damage is observable on or around the stove in the second-floor apartment. The chief added four firefighters were slightly injured with “burns, twists and muscles pulls.”

“The fire was knocked down quickly and proficiently… A great job and aggressive attack which probably led to the (firefighters’) pains and sprains,” Laliberty said.

Haverhill Commits to ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ with Fiber Optic Internet Study Investment

The Haverhill City Council has taken the first step toward bridging the digital divide. Councilors Tuesday voted to allocate $20,000 to investigate the feasibility of bringing high quality internet access to all corners of the city. Citing a recent report from Tufts University, Councilor John A. Michitson told the committee that disparities in digital access have been laid bare as a result of COVID-19, particularly in the realm of education. That report stated 160,000 residents of Essex County lack access to reliable, high speed internet service and, not surprisingly, that a large number of those residents are economically disadvantaged. He offered this idea as a potential first step in closing that gap.

Abandoned Gas Station Property on Haverhill Waterfront to Become Nine Condominiums

A long-abandoned gas station will give rise to a nine-unit condominium complex overlooking the Merrimack River in downtown Haverhill. The Haverhill City Council granted a special permit Tuesday to developer Larvanco to build the First Landing Condo Project on the former Skelley Motors’ half-acre site at 229 Water Street. Lawyer Michael J. Migliori, described the plan. “The units will consist of eight two-bedroom units and one one-bedroom unit, all at being market rate. I believe it is a project that will stimulate other projects, taking advantage of the fact that Haverhill is fortunate to have such an asset as the Merrimack River running through the heart of the city and we believe that this proposed condominium building will be seen as a vibrant entrance to downtown Haverhill,” he told councilors.

Two Haverhill Educators Test Positive for COVID-19; Contacts Including Principal Must Stay Home

Two Haverhill educators have tested positive for the coronavirus and close contacts will remain out of schools two weeks for precautionary quarantine. The most visible impact is the absence of Silver Hill School Principal Scott Gray, who was identified by school Superintendent Margaret Marotta as a “close contact” of an administrator at the elementary school who tested positive. She said a teacher at the Dr. Albert B. Consentino School has also tested positive. No students are among the close contacts. Staff at both Silver Hill and Consentino were briefed Tuesday afternoon.

Former Haverhill Police Chief Barone Dies at 78, Served 35 Years on Police Force

Former Haverhill Police Chief Leonard R. Barone, who served on the police force for more than 35 years, has died at age 78. Barone was police chief for more than 10 years until his retirement in 2001. He died Oct. 17 at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen, but formal notice came Tuesday. He came up the ranks as sergeant, captain and eventually became the city’s first non-civil service police chief.

Haverhill Reaches Agreement with School Employees who Serve as Bus Drivers and Monitors

(An earlier draft of this story erroneously referenced an outside bus service.)

An agreement between city schools and the Service Employees International Union Local 888, representing some Haverhill bus drivers and monitors, gives those employees a choice of days off or pay for assisting with building cleaning. City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. told the School Committee Thursday the new Memorandum of Understanding is necessary due to the unusual circumstances caused by COVID-19. For example, Cox pointed out, there is no need for buses on Wednesdays because schools are closed for cleaning. “The agreement provides that starting next Wednesday, bus drivers and monitors will have the option of taking Wednesdays as an unpaid day, using available vacation or personal leave or reporting to an assigned school building to assist with the Wednesday deep cleaning of the building,” he said. The agreement also covers how drivers are selected should they be needed on a Wednesday.

Councilors to Hear Diversity Panel Findings, Including Suggestion to Hire ‘Diversity Officer’

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. Early last summer, Haverhill’s mayor declared racism a public health emergency and, now, the Mayor’s Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion concludes “the city has failed to put in place a diverse and inclusive hiring process.”

The Committee, appointed by Mayor James J. Fiorentini, reports its findings to the City Council Tuesday night at the request of Council President Melinda E. Barrett and Councilor John A. Michitson. “There is a need to create a position ‘Diversity officer’ to look at all hiring practices for city government jobs, private contractors, school department positions, including educators (growing diverse student population),” reads an excerpt provided in a press release by Fiorentini Friday. The mayor is known for issuing press releases—seen by some as a form of pre-emptive strike—when city councilors schedule controversial topics.

Haverhill Opens Dempsey Boardwalk Extension; Gov. Baker to Dedicate Lupoli Project Nov. 5

While Gov. Charlie Baker will dedicate the new 10-story “Heights at Haverhill” building next week, developer Salvatore N. Lupoli and city officials gathered last Friday for the dedication of the latest extension to the city’s riverfront boardwalk. Completed as part of a private-public partnership between the city, state and Lupoli Companies, the newest section of to the Rep. Brian S. Dempsey Boardwalk runs along the Merrimack River from behind Haverhill Bank to the Haverhill Post Office. Lupoli cut the ribbon, inaugurating the opening. “You gave us an opportunity. You worked with us.