$200K boosts arts center at old school

The effort to transform the Cogswell School building into a community arts center has gotten a boost in the form of a $200,000 grant from the state.

This means the Creative Haverhill organization has reached a significant milestone in the capital campaign "Reinvent Cogswell.''

With the addition of the $200,000 grant, Creative Haverhill has so far raised more than 80% of its $2.5 million goal, and the purchase of the building will happen this month, organizers of the arts center said. Creative Haverhill hopes to complete the campaign by the end of the year and begin renovations to the building at the start of 2020.

"Haverhill should be extremely proud that this is the first Haverhill-based organization to be selected in the history of the fund," said Creative Haverhill board chair Danielle Smida.

Because the $200,000 from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for the arts center is a matching grant, Creative Haverhill must raise an additional $200,000 in order to get that state money, Smida said.

The city is selling the old school building to Creative Haverhill for $175,000, said Erin Padilla, project manager for the Reinvent Cogswell campaign. The campaign is being run by Creative Haverhill, a nonprofit arts group.

Padilla said the goal is to preserve the school, which was built in 1891, and retain as much of its historic character as possible. The plans are to update the building's HVAC, fire suppression, plumbing and electrical systems, and renovate former classrooms to create gallery space, artist studios and arts classrooms.

"While the plans for programming within the space aren't completely set in stone, the plans are to host a juried exhibition space, along with community rental rooms, art rooms for adult art classes, arts/STEAM after-school clubs, youth vacation camps, artist studio rental rooms, ceramics studios, and a wood shop/makers space," Padilla said.

The effort to turn the former school into an arts center will keep the historic property accessible to the public.

Cogswell's proximity to the newly completed Bradford Rail Trail along the city's riverfront will provide easy walking or biking access between the arts center and Haverhill's expanding downtown.

The Cogswell building is also within walking distance of two MBTA commuter train stations with direct access to the Boston arts scene, with multiple trips each day. Amtrak's DownEaster commuter train also makes daily stops not far from the old school.

The capital campaign's latest fundraising event is "Bach to Broadway" — a concert of classical and musical theater vocal selections to be performed June 15 at the Renaissance Golf Club, 377 Kenoza St. Proceeds from the event will count towards the matching grant amount.

The concert will feature classical vocal selections and songs from musical theater catalogs. Eight professional musicians from the Haverhill area will perform songs including, "Till There Was You," written by Meredith Willson for the musical play "The Music Man" (1957); "Almost Real" from the "Bridges of Madison County"; the classic Italian aria "O Mio Babbino Caro" ("O My Beloved Papa'') from the opera Gianni Schicchi (1918) by Giacomo Puccini; and a libretto by Giovacchino Forzano.

Featured performers include Aliana de la Guardia, Susan Consoli, Lauren Sprague, Sara Sturdivant, Heather Butler, Risa Annicchiario, Jennifer Onello and 13-year-old Jonathan Uber. The event will offer light refreshments and a silent auction from 6 to 7 p.m. Musical performances are from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

Tickets, at $40 per person or $75 for a pair, can be purchased at bachtobroadway-reinventcogswell.eventbrite.com.

Visit online at www.cogswellartspace.org.

— Mike LaBella


Amazon plans distribution center just across city line

Amazon, the online retail giant, wants to locate a distribution center at 1600 Osgood St. in North Andover, the sprawling industrial plant that housed Western Electric for many years, then AT&T and finally Lucent Technologies.

The property is just south of Haverhill.

Gary Frederick, senior vice president of Hillwood, a real estate developer based in Dallas, said last week that Amazon wants to acquire the property at 1600 Osgood St. When Frederick appeared before North Andover selectmen on April 22, he said the identity of the company interested in the property could not be revealed because of sensitive negotiations.

Frederick estimated at that time the business that wanted to move to the property could add 1,500 jobs to the Merrimack Valley.

Selectmen have scheduled a special Town Meeting for June 18 to act on zoning changes that are required for the project to go forward. The changes include allowing a building height of 105 feet. The warrant for the special Town Meeting, which the selectmen approved last week, also includes a proposal to extend the town sewer line as far as 1600 Osgood St.

“This will be a great use of that space,” said Regina Kean, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.

Selectman Chris Nobile said there will be “no negative impacts.” An earlier proposal to cultivate marijuana at the site failed to draw similar enthusiasm.

Frederick, who said he has been working with Amazon for more than a year on this project, expressed optimism to selectmen last week.

“The process continues,” he said. “We are making progress for sure.”

He noted there are still many details that need to be worked out.

“This is a big transaction, even for them (Amazon),” he said.

He assured the selectmen that Amazon is committed to the project.

“We’re here for the long haul,” Frederick said.

“We hope to have a successful partnership with the town,” said Brad Griggs, Amazon’s project manager for 1600 Osgood St.

“We look forward to working with you,” Selectman Rosemary Connelly Smedile said.

State Comptroller Andrew Maylor, who was North Andover’s town manager until the middle of February, said in a Tweet, “It’s official. Amazon will locate a distribution facility at the 1600 Osgood site.”

Leaders of neighboring communities rejoiced at the news.

“This just shows that a region working together can compete for jobs and development together. Amazon opening in North Andover is the same as restaurants opening in Haverhill. Lawrence is happy to provide the work force,” said Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera in a prepared statement.

Rivera noted Haverhill, Lawrence, Andover and North Andover collaborated in producing a video touting the Merrimack Valley to Amazon in the area’s pitch for HQ2 to be located on the east coast.

“When North Andover, Andover, Haverhill and Lawrence put together our regional proposal with the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission in the fall of 2017 to bring Amazon’s headquarters to the Merrimack Valley, we knew it was a long shot,” Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini said in a prepared statement.

“But the idea was that even if we didn’t get, hopefully we could get a subsidiary business or project somewhere down the line and that’s exactly what’s happened,'' Fiorentini said. "This is going to bring a lot of jobs to Haverhill and the region and is great news.”

North Andover’s Acting Town Manager Lyne Savage estimated the total cost of the sewer extension at $7 million.

“We’re not going to foot the bill for the whole $7 million,” she said. The town will seek financial help from the state and the developer, she said.

At its peak, Western Electric employed more than 10,000 people at the Merrimack Valley Works. The numbers declined as many of those jobs went elsewhere.

Lucent left the site more than 10 years ago. The number of people working at 1600 Osgood St., in various small businesses, is a minute fraction of the multitude employed there 30 to 40 years ago.


— Paul Tennant


Haverhill man charged with 5th drunk driving offense

Police charged a Lake Street man with operating under the influence of liquor, fifth offense, after they said he rear-ended another vehicle then fled the scene, without exchanging information with the other driver.

Witnesses provided police with the license plate number of the man's vehicle, which led police to his home.

In addition to the drunken driving charge, Richard Ricker Jr., 52, of 265 Lake St. was charged with leaving the scene of personal injury, leaving the scene of property damage and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

Police said Ricker has four prior convictions for operating under the influence of alcohol.

Ricker, who is employed as a union plumber, according to police, was arrested May 23 at his home.

He was arraigned on the charges last week in Haverhill District Court, where Judge Patricia Dowling ordered him held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing scheduled for June 4.

According to a police report on file in Haverhill District Court, 1:45 p.m. on May 23, Patrolman Matthew Marshall was dispatched to Main Street at Plaistow Road for a motor vehicle accident involving a black pickup truck that had fled the scene after colliding with the rear end of a compact car.

Marshall said he pulled into the Mobil station at the intersection of Main Street and Plaistow Road and spoke to a 20-year-old Manchester, New Hampshire, woman who told him she was sitting at a red light in her Hyundai Elantra waiting to turn into the Munroe Muffler parking lot when her car was rear-ended.

The female driver told Marshall that she suffered minor neck pain while her female passenger told Marshall that she suffered a small cut on one of her ears. Both women refused medical treatment, Marshall noted in his report.

The Hyundai's driver told Marshall that after the crash, she and Ricker pulled into the Mobil station and that Ricker got out of his pickup truck and asked her not to call police. The woman said she was about to call police when Ricker got back into his truck and drove away.

According to the report, Sgt. John Arahovites went to Ricker's home and informed him about an investigation into an accident he was allegedly involved in.

Marshall, who arrived shortly afterwards, noted in his report that Ricker showed signs of intoxication, including slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and an odor of alcohol.

Ricker told the officers that he and his brother had just left the 110 Grill when the car in front of them stopped abruptly and he struck its rear end.

Ricker's brother told police they'd consumed a "couple" of beers at the restaurant.

During a field sobriety test, Ricker nearly fell over, prompting his brother to tell the officers that his brother has brain damage, police said. Arahovites then stopped the test out of concerns for Ricker's safety, Marshall noted in his report.

Ricker told police that he'd fallen down a flight of stairs in 2004, and that he forgot to tell them he was paralyzed in his right arm.

Ricker was arrested and charged with OUI, fifth offense.

Police said that due to Ricker's large size, handcuffs would not fit around his wrists.

During the booking process, Ricker refused to submit to a chemical test and was told his license would be suspended for 180 days, Marshall noted in his report.

— Mike LaBella


Trahan disclosure shines light on finances

A newly filed personal financial disclosure by U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan suggests she had more than enough revenue and assets to secure sizable loans to her campaign last year, but watchdog groups that filed complaints against the congresswoman say her story still doesn't add up.

Trahan, a Westford Democrat, has been accused by two groups of violating campaign finance laws by loaning her campaign $371,000 in the months ahead of a contentious primary election. The complaints question the source of the loans, alleging that Trahan's revenue and assets in 2018 weren't enough to secure them.

In her most recent disclosure to the clerk of the House of Representatives, the freshman congresswoman lists $274,535 in revenue from her consulting firm Concire LLC in 2018, as well as assets that include a Bank of America checking account associated with the business, the value of which fluctuated between $250,001 and $500,000 in 2018.

The disclosure also listed the range of gross revenue for her affiliated consulting firm Concire Leadership Institute last year at between $1 million and $5 million.

Trahan loaned herself a total of $371,000 last year as part of her bid to win the 3rd Congressional District seat previously held by Rep. Niki Tsongas.

The campaign loans were made in several installments over a period of several months, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The money funded a last-minute advertising blitz that helped the political neophyte cinch a 10-way Democratic primary last September, which she won by 145 votes following a recount between her and Dan Koh. She went on to defeat Republican Rick Green and independent Mike Mullen in the Nov. 6 election.

A complaint with the Federal Election Commission filed in March by the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog, argues that Trahan didn't have enough revenue and assets to cover those loans, based on her personal financial disclosures filed with the clerk of the House of Representatives.

Corey Goldstone, a spokesman for the group, said Trahan's latest financial disclosure doesn't clear up the discrepancies raised in their complaint.

"This most recent filing doesn't justify her original story," Goldstone said in a statement. "We still feel that the Trahan campaign has violated federal law for failing to fully report loans, depriving voters of important information about the sources and amounts of money used to influence an election."

Another complaint, filed April 24 by the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a conservative watchdog group, makes similar allegations about Trahan's filings and asks the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate the source of the loans.

Kendra Arnold, the group's executive director, said Trahan was "required to file a full and accurate financial disclosure ahead of the election, so that voters could assess any potential conflicts of interest" but didn't do that. She said Trahan's most recent financial disclosure doesn't wipe away the violation of federal law.

"It wasn't until after the election that she filed a complete disclosure," Arnold said. "We believe that is a violation in itself, and there's no way to remedy it."

In a prepared statement, Trahan said her revenue and assets were more than enough to secure the loans to her congressional campaign.

"This latest filing proves what I've said all along -- I had ample resources to make a loan to my campaign," she said. "While it was not ultimately necessary, the disclosure also clearly demonstrates I could have invested much more in my campaign if I had wanted to."

Trahan's most recent filing also lists mortgages held jointly with her husband and lines of credit on her homes in Massachusetts and Maine.

A Boston Globe report, which first raised the allegations, suggested the campaign loans were backed by Trahan’s husband, David, a real estate developer.

While candidates can loan themselves unlimited funds, family members are limited to contributions of $2,700 per election cycle, according to federal rules.

Trahan has amended her personal financial disclosures filed with the House clerk multiple times over the past year, as questions about the source of the campaign loans were raised, adding a joint banking account and a $71,000 home equity loan. Her campaign has pointed out that such amendments are common, especially among first-time candidates.

Last year's race for the 3rd District was the state’s marquee congressional election and awash with campaign money.

All told, candidates spent nearly $12 million, according to campaign disclosures, making it one of the state's most expensive congressional races last year.

— Christian M. Wade


Local man gets 3-4 years in prison for store robbery

A Haverhill man was sentenced to three to four years in state prison last week after pleading guilty to an armed robbery at a Haverhill convenience store last fall.

Joseph Lee Foster, 31, was charged after both Haverhill police and the grandparent of Foster’s child recognized him from surveillance images from the Red Hen convenience store on River Street.

The grandparent contacted police after seeing Foster’s image in a video shared with the media.

The holdup occurred on Nov. 28, when Foster walked into the store and initially appeared to be there to purchase a lottery ticket and a candy bar. But he pulled up a piece of clothing over his face and demanded cash, eventually going behind the counter to get it, police said.

On his way out, he dropped a knife in the store, police said. They said they also found a piece of clothing outside that fit the description of what the robber was wearing.

Police later released a surveillance video from the store.

“I just realize I messed up,” Fowler told Salem Superior Court Judge Salim Tabit during his hearing last week. “I’m thankful we can resolve this.”

Under the plea agreement reached between prosecutor Susan Dolhun and defense attorney Joseph Gannon, the original charge of armed robbery while masked, which carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, was reduced to armed robbery.

— Julie Manganis


Haverhill drug dealer gets 10 years in N.H. prison

Alex Noonan, 31, of Haverhill was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a drug-dealing conspiracy, according to U.S. Attorney Scott Murray.

According to court documents, a drug trafficking organization which authorities say was led by Sergio Martinez employed Noonan and others to sell fentanyl to customers from various New England states, including New Hampshire.

On each date that Noonan worked, the Martinez organization provided him with at least one 200-gram bag of fentanyl and expected him to sell it and return approximately $6,000 in proceeds, according to Murray.

Noonan previously pleaded guilty on Feb. 12.

“This 10-year prison term sends a message to fentanyl traffickers,” Murray said. “Those who choose to distribute this deadly drug must understand that they face stiff penalties upon arrest and conviction. We will continue to work closely with all of our law enforcement partners to identify, prosecute, and incarcerate those responsible for the distribution of fentanyl in the Granite State.”

The case was a collaborative investigation that involved several law enforcement agencies on the federal, state and local level.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Georgiana L. Konesky and Seth R. Aframe.

This case was supported by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). The OCDETF program is a federal multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional task force that supplies supplemental federal funding to federal and state agencies involved in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of major drug trafficking organizations.

— Staff reports



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