EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


May 28, 2013

Council wants city to buy ice rink

Asks mayor to form oversight commission, look into buying facility

HAVERHILL — City Council has asked Mayor James Fiorentini to form a commission to oversee Veteran’s Memorial Ice Rink and to look into buying the facility from the state.

The council has been looking for ways to improve and provide better maintenance of the 45-year-old rink in the wake of complaints that it has fallen into disrepair and that the city is not spending enough money to take care of it.

“The rink is a cash cow for the city, but it appears we are only doing minimal maintenance,” Councilor William Macek said. “Maybe that’s not the way we should be doing it anymore.”

Haverhill has been leasing the rink from the state for $1-a-year for more than two decades. The current 25-year lease expires in 2027. It stipulates the city must spend at least $1.4 million in capital improvements over the lease term, officials said.

Human Services Director Vincent Ouellette, who is in charge of the rink, and several youth skating and hockey coaches have said a myriad of state rules that specify how and to whom the city can sell ice time has limited the facility’s rental income potential.

Councilors said Ouellette is unable to focus enough attention on the rink because he has too many other duties and responsibilities for the city, including overseeing the Citizen Center and Recreation Department.

Council President Robert Scatamacchia said a commission would provide five or six advocates to lobby the mayor and the state on behalf of the city and the rink.

The council voted 8 to 0 to ask Fiorentini to form a commission similar to the one that oversees Trinity Stadium. The mayor would also appoint the members.

In an interview after the council’s vote, Fiorentini said he’s not likely to support a rink commission or buying the facility. He said any commission, if the state would even allow one, would have to include representatives from around the region because the state considers the rink to be a regional asset.

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