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February 13, 2013

Council OK's $500K storm bill

HAVERHILL — City Council OK'd the blizzard's bill last night.

At Mayor James Fiorentini's request, the council declared a health and safety emergency, allowing the mayor to access reserve cash to pay $500,000 in cleanup costs from last weekend's historic snow storm.

The mayor said the city has spent $350,000 since the storm began Friday and that he expects to spend another $150,000 over the next few days in cleanup efforts. The blizzard ranked as the fifth-largest in modern Massachusetts history.

Haverhill had already depleted most of its $478,000 regular snow and ice budget prior to the start of the two-day storm, Fiorentini said. Last night's council vote allows the mayor to access another $650,000 in a reserve cash put aside in case of an overrun. As a result, the city will have about $150,000 left for the rest of winter. If the city goes over again, it will have to make up the overrun in next year's budget, the mayor said.

Fiorentini told councilors he is satisfied with the city's response to the storm. He also briefed them on several new strategies that he said worked well. They included automatic calls to residents with land-based phone lines warning them to move their vehicles from city streets or risk being towed. He credited residents for heeding the warning, which allowed plows to clear most roads, he said. The biggest problem areas, the mayor said, were in the city's densely populated Mount Washington and Acre neighborhoods where off-street parking is scarce. In all, the mayor said the city towed 10 vehicles Friday and a few more Saturday.

Councilor William Ryan suggested many residents in the inner city didn't get the mayor's phone message because they don't have land-based lines.

"People in those areas all have cell phones they get rid of in a few weeks," Ryan said.

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