EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 7, 2013

Lawrence ponders improvements after years of neglect

LAWRENCE — For a city that hasn’t done much shopping or rebuilding since the money ran out about a decade ago, the list of what’s needed is dozens of pages and tens of millions of dollars long: police cruisers, lawn mowers, roofs, boilers, pumper trucks, defibrillators, street sweepers, ball fields, snow plows, street lights, a salt shed and a new police headquarters.

Yesterday, department heads began assembling a list of what needs to be done to fix the neglect that’s occurred since a mayor last proposed a capital budget in 2004, beginning a period when the city spent little on infrastructure improvements and major purchases except to fix an emergency or respond to a state or federal mandate.

There’s still not much money — even less since the federal government announced last week that it will no longer pay the salaries of 38 firefighters, punching a $2.8 million hole in the operating budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

City Budget Director Mark Ianello reminded the seven other department heads who attended yesterday’s capital projects meeting of that several times, but insisted they leave nothing off their lists.

“It’s a priority, but realistically that’s not going to happen,” police Capt. Scott McNamara told Ianello, who chairs the capital projects group, when the discussion turned to replacing the 47-year-old police station, built for a much smaller department in a different, low-tech era of law enforcement.

“We need to get this into the public dialogue,” Ianello responded. “It’s many years out but the project still should get ranked high. The maintenance cost is high. It’s not functional for the Police Department. I know your offices are quite constricted. There’s no rhyme or reason for how it’s set up. It was designed for 50 people. You’ve got 100.”

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