HAVERHILL — It’s an early Christmas in Haverhill.
City Council approved almost $800,000 in spending last night — everything from repairs to five city buildings to buying land for a rail trail pathway to designing improvements along the Route 97 and Water Street entrances to the city.
Mayor James Fiorentini called it his “Building For The Future” five-year capital improvement program. The mayor and council agreed to sock away $780,500 in this year’s operating budget for the first year of the plan. Last night they agreed how to spend it.
The Citizen Center received the largest share — $200,000 to renovate the deteriorated outer shell or framing of the Welcome Street building.
The mayor said $100,000 will be used to develop design plans for improving the Route 97 (Broadway) gateway to the city between the Target store and Lake Street with the addition of sidewalks, trees and street lights. He said the city will be able to seek state money for the work once it has design plans.
“We have no sidewalks or school or recreation area in that part of the city,” Fiorentini said. “People who live there feel disconnected from the rest of the city. This will help change that.”
Another $35,000 is to be used to make improvements on Water Street, another gateway to the inner city, by adding walking trails, bike paths and benches along the Merrimack River between downtown and Lincoln Avenue, the mayor said.
“A few years ago, we spent a small amount of money to cut down trees on Water Street to open a view of the river and the public loved it,” Fiorentini said. “What we want to do is improve property values by making it a more beautiful city to live in.”
The mayor said $107,000 will buy land on the Bradford side of the river that will be used to extend the rudimentary rail trail pathway the city is building there. The plan, he said, is to extend the trail to a new playground the city recently built near Crescent Yacht Club.