EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 4, 2014

Mayor seeks $148K for potholes, rail trail, lawyers

Fiorentini: Money needed for road repairs, action against tax delinquents

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — Mayor James Fiorentini will ask City Council tonight for money to repair potholes, chase people who owe taxes, and continue designing a rail trail along the river.

The mayor wants:

$10,000 to patch potholes that have shown up across the city this winter.

$100,000 to pay lawyers and other legal expenses to take dozens of property tax delinquents to court.

$38,000 to finish designing the Bradford rail trail pathway.

In a letter for councilors, Fiorentini said the state Department of Revenue recently certified the city’s 2014 free cash at $2.6 million. He wants to take the $148,000 from that account.

Free cash is money left over from the prior fiscal year budget. It must be certified by the state before it can be used. The mayor said most of the money in the free cash account will be carried over to help pay for next year’s budget.

But he will ask the council to let him spend $148,000 for the three items he said should be taken care of prior to next year’s budget, which goes into effect July 1.

First on the spending list is patching potholes, which the city plans to begin in spring, the mayor said.

“This has been a brutal winter for potholes,” Fiorentini said. “Patching potholes really should really be seen as preventative maintenance for our roads. Fixing the roads means there are fewer roads that we have to repair,” he said, referring to road jobs that must be done later.

The largest expense — $100,000 — is to pay lawyers and court fees related to trying to collect back taxes from property tax scofflaws.

The best way to collect back taxes is to bring a petition to land court for permission to seize the properties unless the owners pay up, the mayor said.

“We do not desire to own a single home or parcel of land,” Fiorentini said. “It is our hope that by going to land court, everyone who is delinquent on their taxes will pay them. We have a duty that we owe to the taxpayers who pay their taxes to make certain that everyone pays. Unfortunately, we have a large number of people who are delinquent who have not responded to our late notices.”

The final proposed free cash expenditure is for the rail trail the city is developing on the Bradford side of the Merrimack River, across from downtown.

“We are at a critical point with the rail trail if we are going to meet the deadline imposed by the state to begin construction next year,” the mayor said. “The additional funding will allow us to finish some design issues.”

Tapping the free cash reserve requires a majority vote by the council, which is set to consider the spending tonight at 7 in City Hall.