EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 27, 2013

2013 busy year for many city workers

Police made about four arrests on average day; firefighters responded to 13 medical calls per day

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — It was a busy year for cops, firefighters, restaurant inspectors, pothole fillers and many other city workers, according to an end-of-the-year report by the mayor’s office.

Mayor James Fiorentini said the Highway Department patched 896 potholes in 2013, up 62 percent from 552 in 2012. He attributed the increase to a contest the city launched last spring in which people were invited to call in the location of potholes.

“Fixing potholes is a money-saver because it’s preventative maintenance that eliminates the need to do more expensive repairs and repaving later,” the mayor said, adding he expects to do another contest next spring.

Highway crews also paved six miles of roadway and swept 1,467 streets, both increases over the prior year, Fiorentini said.

The city’s Inspectional Services department, which is often criticized for being understaffed, issued 10,076 permits and performed 11,949 inspections in 2013, the mayor said.

Fiorentini said the city has just two building inspectors and two health inspections, who oversee Haverhill’s many restaurants and bars. The mayor said he would like to add more in the future depending on the city’s finances.

“I always knew our inspectors were busy, but I was surprised by the numbers just how heavy their workload is,” the mayor said. “Keeping the city clean and attractive is an important quality of life issue, so these inspections and what they do is extremely important.”

The mayor noted the city recently hired an abandoned buildings inspector who will split his time with Methuen. The position is being funded by a two-year state grant, he said.

Inspectors also were busy handing out warning notices and fines.

The mayor said Inspectional Services mailed 649 trash violations letters, 706 housing code violation letters and 297 building code violations notices. They also filed 206 court cases against residents who failed to pay fines, Fiorentini said.

The Police Department was similarly busy, handling 32,489 calls for service and making 1,516 arrests — a little more than four arrests per day on average. The mayor said police handled about the same number of services calls and made a similar number of arrests last year.

Fiorentini and police Chief Alan DeNaro have maintained crime fell slightly in 2013 compared to the prior year, based on statistics compiled by the department. Police union officials contend crime, especially violent crime and gang activity, is on the rise, however, and that the crime statistics are unreliable.

Firefighters responded to 35 building fires and 4,410 medical calls in 2013 — about 13 medical call per day on average, according to the mayor.

The year ends with the firefighters union and the mayor at odds over the reliability and condition of aging fire trucks. Firefighters have complained the public and themselves are potentially at risk due to the age and condition of several pumper trucks. City Council is set to consider next month a proposal from the mayor to borrow money for one new pumper truck, but fire Chief Richard Borden and firefighters have said more are needed.

Over at the City Clerk’s Office, the staff handed out 4,356 permits, including 2,200 dog licenses, 963 death certificates, 750 birth certificates and 331 marriage licenses.

The Assessor’s Office updated values on 21,183 properties and inspected another 2,340 properties, the mayor said. Workers in that department also handled 75 tax abatement cases.

The Water/Wastewater Department responded to 1,765 service calls, the mayor’s information showed.