hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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June 19, 2014

Council wants proactive school upkeep

Fund would keep new buildings in top shape long-term

HAVERHILL — A week after voters agreed to pay the city’s portion of a new $61.5 million school in Bradford, City Council President John Michitson is pushing for a detailed and strict program for maintaining and repairing city schools and other public buildings.

“Now that voters were generous enough to ratify funding for a new Hunking School facility, the city is obligated to accelerate recent improvements in school building maintenance and capital improvements to provide well maintained facilities and positive learning environments for all students in Haverhill, and to upgrade all public buildings to a baseline that can be maintained properly,” Michitson said. “And we are obligated to do it within the budget.”

Michitson is proposing the city start by approving specific plans for maintaining the new Hunking School as well as Nettle Middle School and Haverhill High School. The city is currently paying back loans used to renovate Nettle and the high school.

Poor maintenance of city schools and other buildings has been a frequent criticism from the public and some elected officials over the past decade, as the city has struggled with financial problems and annual budget shortfalls.

While campaigning across the city in support of the Hunking proposal, Michitson said he encountered many residents who believe the city has done a poor job taking care of its schools, including the 55-year-old Hunking.

“In the last two months, citizens who were both for and against the debt exclusion voiced major concern with the city’s track record of maintaining schools and other public buildings,” Michitson said. “The taxpayers are now funding two expensive major renovations, the Nettle and high school, respectively, and soon will be footing the bill for a new Hunking school facility. This trend needs to end.”

In the June 10 election, voters agreed to temporarily increase their property taxes to build a new, larger school to replace the deteriorating Hunking School. The vote authorized the city to temporarily increase taxes to pay Haverhill’s $21 million share of a $61.5 million new school. The state has agreed to contribute $40 million to the project.

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