FROM THE DESK OF MAYOR MANZI
By: Methuen Mayor Bill Manzi – April, 2011
Municipal health care continues to be a dominant political issue for localities, with both Governor Patrick and Speaker Deleo advocating reform that would allow savings of over $100 million per year statewide. The Legislature held a hearing on this subject a couple of weeks back, but as the clock runs down it appears likely that any reform will be too late to impact FY 12. And while unions made a proposal in advance of the legislative hearing it was simply not enough to produce the results needed for municipal taxpayers. Read the most recent MMA letter to the Legislature at http://www.billmanzi.com/?p=3823
The story of Brynne Kurmas, the young girl who went missing and was tragically found deceased in Methuen, brought out community volunteers from Emergency Management, the Police Superiors Union, and the Methuen Patrolman’s Union on a Sunday morning to search for her. I must take the opportunity to commend Chief Solomon and the entire Methuen Police Department, who gave an enormous amount of volunteer time to conduct this search. The Emergency Management Team, headed by John Santoro, and our certified volunteers, were also on hand to aid in the search efforts. I was very proud of the entire Department, as we had over 50% of the available staff participating in this volunteer effort. My thanks to all of the fine officers and volunteers who gave so much to the community on that Sunday.
The Methuen City Council has rejected the proposal for Methuen to join the Regional Dispatch Center that is going to open in Middleton. The Regional Dispatch Center offered Methuen an ability to provide state of the art dispatch to Methuen residents at a substantially lower cost. Those lower costs included shifting all of our current employees to the new facility and having the Commonwealth of Massachusetts pick up their health costs, as well as pension. Additionally the City has an immediate need, in light of our staying out of the regional entity, to spend about $1 million dollars to upgrade our own equipment. This capital cost will be included in the new CIP list provided to City Council, but will likely have to be funded within the next 18 months. It is a major expenditure that could be completely avoided by joining the Regional Dispatch Center. On top of that the equipment will still not have all of the capabilities of the Regional Center. So the City Council refusal means that Methuen’s taxpayers will be on the hook for a million dollar expenditure, as well as continued payment for costs that could be taken care of by the Commonwealth. There is still time to rethink this decision, and I urge the City Council to do so.
And speaking of CIP the police and fire dispatch expense will only be one of the items listed in our upcoming five year plan we will be filing with the City Council. Building improvements at the Quinn Building, Stadium improvements, additional equipment, including ambulances for our Fire Department and cruisers for our Police Department, and a host of other items will be included. I will post that plan online as soon as we submit it to Council.
Methuen continues to await action on our bonding request, which is currently under consideration at the State House. The bill is important to the community so that we can absorb the large, one time deficit that occurred in the last fiscal cycle in the health care account. We are funding our High School project within the confines of Prop 2.5, and we must maintain our reserves fund at an adequate level in order for our plan to work. This bonding request will be paid for by the health care trust fund, since that is where the deficit arose from. The changes we have made in the plan are showing concrete results already, with the trust fund showing sufficient strength in this fiscal cycle to easily repay the bond. I hope we see action on this matter in the very near future.
And finally work has started at Methuen’s Central School, which will house the freshman class of Methuen High School next year. Methuen High School will see some dirt being moved after the school year ends this year, with construction in full swing in the September timeframe. The project that has been talked about for so long is now coming together. Thanks to the Building Committee, the Methuen School Committee, and the Methuen City Council for their support and advocacy for the High School students of Methuen. And thank you to our State House delegation for all of their work to secure the funding for the project.
Follow the Mayor’s blog at www.billmanzi.com