By Bill Kirk
---- — ANDOVER — People who want to do business in Lawrence no longer have to worry about being strong-armed by corrupt officials, according to the newly elected mayor.
“You’ll be happy to know if you come to City Hall you won’t have to worry about someone shaking you down,” said Daniel Rivera, now on day 15 of his 4-year term as mayor. “We are cleaning house.”
Rivera, speaking to a record crowd of 300 people at the annual Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce mayors and town managers breakfast at the Andover Country Club yesterday, was frank in his comments to the movers and shakers of the region.
“Thank you for sticking with the city,” said Rivera. “We appreciate that you kept your business in Lawrence. We know it wasn’t easy.”
In the fall election, Rivera narrowly defeated Mayor William Lantigua, who was popular but whose administration was saddled with accounts of alleged corruption.
He stressed that Lawrence is “open for business again” and was ready to start working closely with neighboring communities to improve the economy of the region.
“It’s important for people in other communities to know that we are part of the family,” he said in a brief interview with The Eagle-Tribune. He said his comments regarding being shaken down were meant to show that he has an “above-board organization that plays by the rules.”
He said his biggest push since being sworn in Jan. 2 is on law enforcement. He said he spends 2-3 hours a day with the police chief.
“We are working to control crime,” he said, “so when you come down to dinner you’ll have a pleasant experience.”
Rivera, who received enthusiastic applause after being introduced by moderator Sal Lupoli, was one of a half-dozen local leaders to address the audience.
James Fiorentini, mayor of Haverhill, touted his city’s success at rezoning the downtown to attract housing and more restaurants.
“We have $150 million in investment in downtown, including 550 new housing units and 850 new residents, including my son,” he said, adding that the 22 restaurants have created a thriving business climate.
“It’s the best dining north of the North End,” he said, adding that the state recently awarded $5 million for a new boardwalk, which will link with a new rail trail to create what he hoped would become “our own Emerald Necklace.”
Methuen Mayor Steve Zanni, also recently off a big re-election win, touted the Century Box multi-million dollar expansion that will keep jobs and create new ones in the city, among other initiatives.
Andover Town Manager Reginald ‘Buzz’ Stapczynski spoke about several of the projects he was most proud of, including the soon-to-be built Andover Youth Center, which should start construction in the spring after years of delays.
He also mentioned the Bancroft School project, a new school for 500 students that will be certified as an energy-efficient structure when it opens in the spring.
The town manager said that in his proposed Capital Improvements Plan, he backed off proposing any major projects in an effort to keep taxes down.
“We are going to cut back on borrowing over the next few years to control our debt costs,” he said.
North Andover Town Manager Andy Maylor, in a speech sprinkled with witticisms, told the gathering that his remarks were on his iPad, which almost ran out of battery power because Stapczynski’s speech was so long.
Like other mayors, he highlighted how health insurance costs were croaking the town budget but that with a switch to a new, state-sponsored plan, the town will save $3 million while also seeing a reduction in retirees’ health care costs.
He noted that the town will save $1 million over the next 20 years because it purchased all the street lights from National Grid, taking over maintenance and making them more energy-efficient.