By Alex Lippa
---- — Mayor James Fiorentini is calling 2013 the “year of capital” in Haverhill.
And for good reason.
Improvements are coming to various parts of the city, thanks to money from the state and cash put aside in the city budget.
Officials said the spending means decaying trees will be removed from neighborhoods and parks, sidewalks will receive repairs, and parks will be improved. The money will also bring a new backup generator to the Department of Public Works building to keep it powered during storms which have knocked out electricity there in the past.
“I’m excited because for the first seven years I’ve been mayor, we’ve had no money to spend on capital,” Fiorentini said. ““We have left a lot of things undone. We are now able to set money in capital and set money in reserves.”
Fiorentini said he chose to spread the money around to different departments so many people will see the benefits.
The biggest chunk of money will go toward tree removal. The city will spend $50,000 removing 40 dead and dangerous trees.
The city will also spend $35,000 on the backup generator for the Department of Public Works. The building on Primrose Street has lost power three different times over the past two years due to severe ice and snow storms. Outages have ranged from one to three days.
“This is a location where people call for assistance when storms and other events come to the city,” said Public Works Director Mike Stankovich.
“With no phones or lights, it’s difficult to take care of the residents who have problems,” he said of posing power at the building.
Stankovich said he expects the new generator will last up to 30 years.
He also requested that $25,000 be spent on sidewalk repairs. While it sounds like a hefty amount of money, it will only cover a small part of the city. Haverhill has nearly 35 square miles.
“Sidewalks are very expensive to repair,” he said. “This $25,000 will only get one block replaced. We have over $1 million (worth) of sidewalks which need to be repaired.’’
Stankovich said it is unclear which sidewalks will receive the improvements.
A total of $35,000 will be spent on continued renovations to City Hall. Of that, $26,490 will be used to repair the exterior concrete retaining wall on the parking lot side of the building. An additional $8,510 will be used to replace a 30-foot stretch of the underside of the building’s roof.
David Van Dam, the mayor’s chief of staff, said the city is also finishing replacing the carpets on the second and third floors of City Hall. He expects that project, which is not part of the capital improvements plan, to be done by the end of the month.
Two of the city’s fire stations will also be getting substantial repairs as part of the capital improvements project. The 16th Avenue fire station will see $5,000 go into the building’s first floor to stop water leakage caused by deterioration of steel framing.
Vincent Ouellette, director of parks and recreation, requested $8,000 for improvements to two city parks. The softball and baseball fields at Riverside Park will receive $5,000 to put new clay on the infields. The 12th Avenue playground will also have a new safety surface installed for $3,000.
Fiorentini said because the city’s finances have improved, Haverhill is able to address issues which previously it could not.
“This is the year of capital where we are starting to finally make some improvements,” Fiorentini said. “Our greatest assets were turning into our greatest liabilities because we weren’t able to repair them.”