It took two different councils and three different proposals for the Mayor to finally pass a measure restructuring and privatizing the city’s IT Dept- a move designed to save money and provide a more efficient and modern service to the city. Though still fairly early on in the transition, the positive results have already impressed even the proposal’s harshest critics. In fact, the possibility of privatizing the IT Department at the schools is now being explored. However, judging by the immediate and aggressive push back from school officials, further IT privatization will likely be slow in coming.
NEW CITY SOLICITOR
Yet another issue that spanned two separate councils was the hiring of a new City Solicitor. In mid 2013, the decision was made to hire an outside law firm to represent the city and a search committee was formed to choose a new solicitor. The process was ultimately unsuccessful and the issue was tabled until the new council could address the issue this year. By this time, some councilors were advocating for keeping the outside firm as a permanent replacement for the City Solicitor, while others preferred an “in house” solicitor who would occupy an office in city hall on a daily basis. The question of privatization was again debated. Ultimately, a majority of councilors chose to begin a new search which ended in the hiring of Kerry Jenness, an Assistant City Solicitor from Lowell.
PROJECTS GET UNDER WAY
This year, numerous projects were initiated throughout the city of Methuen. One instance of this was the breaking of ground on the Rt. 93 rotary project. Whether it’s the dozens of missing trees or the now familiar orange traffic barrels, this long-term project has already begun to transform the area. Another example is the boat-ramp at Bea’s sight. Although not scheduled to be fully functioning until spring, once open, this project can be expected to draw many eager boaters to the banks of the Merrimack. Also making progress is the new clubhouse at the athletic complex. While ground has not yet been broken, most of the money required for the project has been raised by the Mayor, and once a contract is awarded sometime in early 2015, the project should move quickly.
BIG BUSINESS BLUES
One of several disappointments of the year was dealt out recently when the Community Development Board unanimously approved a cell tower to be installed on West Street in Methuen. Despite unified, well organized opposition from members of the neighborhood, councilors and various employees of the city, the tower will be erected. Another significant source of frustration is the possibility of the expansion of a natural gas pipeline through a west district neighborhood. Despite only being in the exploratory phases, there is even less recourse for the city than with the cell tower due to regulations far outside the cities purview. Because of this, the pipeline project promises to provide much contention over the coming year, not just in the Merrimack Valley, but reaching out into Western Massachusetts as well.
Probably the biggest unanswered question of the year concerns the tax rate. Unfortunately, this question, likely to be decided by mid-month, has become not if taxes will increase, but by how much. Speculation is not productive at this point, but it is safe to say that when the time comes to set the new rate, discussion will be lively. Even though the die was cast in June with the passing of the Fiscal Year ’15 budget, the exact rate of increase remains unknown. With new growth and higher home values, the hope is the increase may not be as significant as previously thought.
QUICK PERSONAL NOTE
I’d like to quickly thank Tommy Duggan for the opportunity to provide these monthly commentaries to you. I have received many positives comments on several of the issues I have talked about, and look forward to continuing to provide insight into many of the important topics affecting Methuen in the coming year. Merry Christmas!
Daniel Grayton is currently serving as a Councilor at-Large in the City of Methuen. He can be reached at DanielGrayton@gmail.com