By Shawn Regan
---- — 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.
The capital plan includes $100,000 to repair sidewalks across the city. Public Works Director Michael Stankovich said officials will decide in the spring what sidewalks to fix, based on requests from residents and councilors.
In response to a question from Councilor John Michiton, the mayor said next year’s capital expenditure will include $150,000 to redo the parking lot at Consentino Middle School and about $350,000 for a new roof for the police station.
“Its great to see we are trying to take better care of our buildings instead of waiting until an emergency,” Councilor William Ryan said.
Councilor Michael McGonagle said the idea of spending on maintenance is to avoid “another Hunking” — a reference to the deteriorated middle school the city is the process of trying to replace. Problems discovered with the school’s foundation threatened to collapse a section of it until temporary repairs were made last year.
Approved by City Council last night:
Fencing for a dog park at Riverside Park: $6,000
Repairs to the Citizens Center’s outside walls: $200,000
Exterior repairs to City Hall: $20,000
Extending the Bradford Rail Trail: $107,000
Electrical work on the Highway Department generator: $16,000
Improvements to Route 97: $100,000
Sidewalk repairs (areas to be determined): $100,000
Water Street greenway project: $35,000
New boiler at the Water Street Fire Station: $15,000
Hose tower assessment, Water Street Fire Station (a study of part of the building): $6,500
16th Avenue Fire Station apparatus bay floor (floor needs replacement): $115,000
Replace/upgrade technology: $10,000
Disaster recovery for city servers (on-site back up and recovery plan): $15,000
Curbing and cement decking at Haverhill High School: $35,000