hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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July 18, 2013

Parents, coaches to watch over rink

Panel will advise city on issues there

Mayor James Fiorentini is expected to appoint several coaches and parents to a committee which will advise the city on conditions at the Veterans Memorial Ice Rink.

The mayor proposed the advisory committee of people involved with ice skating and hockey groups earlier this month. City councilors are expected to consider the committee at their July 23 meeting.

The council has been looking for ways to improve the 45-year-old rink and provide better maintenance there in the wake of complaints that it has fallen into disrepair and that the city spends too little money to take care of it.

Haverhill has been leasing the rink from the state for $1 a year for more than two decades. The current 25-year lease expires in 2027. It stipulates the city must spend at least $1.4 million in capital improvements during the lease, officials said.

Human Services Director Vincent Ouellette, who is in charge of the rink, and several youth skating and hockey coaches have said a variety of state rules specifying how and to whom the city can sell ice time has limited the facility’s rental income potential.

Councilors said Ouellette is unable to focus enough attention on the rink because he has too many other duties and responsibilities for the city, including overseeing the Citizens Center and Recreation Department.

As a result of recent discussions, the council asked the mayor to form a commission similar to the one that oversees Trinity Stadium, the former Haverhill Stadium.

But Fiorentini said such a commission is not possible because the city does not own the rink and because it was set up by the state to be a regional facility.

Instead, the mayor said he would form a committee of coaches and others who use the rink to advise Ouellette on issues there as they arise.

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