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August 26, 2013

In state's poorest city, job creation agency hasmet twice in two years

(Continued)

“What it needs and requires is working collaboration between the LRA and the mayor’s office,” Laplante said. “People who serve are volunteers. They have jobs during the day and rely on collaboration with the mayor’s office to get projects off the ground. So if there’s no dedication or emphasis on using the LRA as a tool to help with economic development or restoration of our neighborhoods, it becomes an unused asset for the city.”

Lantigua, Chalas and LRA Chairman Johnny Paredes did not return phone calls Friday.

“We don’t have any projects right now,” said Reyes. “I’m waiting to hear from the other members about when is going to be the date that’s going to work for them” to resume meeting.

Patrick Blanchette, the city’s director of economic development, said the redevelopment authority is an independent agency, so mayors have little influence over it beyond appointing four of its members. He said the relationship between Lantigua and the agency changed when Laplante chaired it.

“Laplante made it clear he doesn’t answer to the (mayor),” Blanchette said. “Since that point, the mayor has not used his ability to place a phone call about what they’re meeting on.... I can go (to LRA meetings) as economic development director. The mayor can go. But they don’t answer to us.”

Laplante said the authority regularly asked to meet with Lantigua when he chaired it. He said the mayor refused.

Spokesmen for Mass Development and the state Division of Housing and Community Development, which often work as partners with local redevelopment authorities, declined to comment on the LRA’s two-year slumber.

“Redevelopment authorities are independent authorities that set their own agendas,” said Matthew Sheaff, a spokesman for DHCD. “They’re voted into existence by local municipalities, in this case, the city of Lawrence. So for questions on their meetings, I have to refer you to the redevelopment authority.”

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