Monthly Archives: March 2007

Newburyport, School Funding

After reading Mr. Cole’s post(s) about the Newburyport School override, I was still confused about whether or not the entire amount of the $1.6 million override would be allocated to the Newburyport schools after one year, or if the money would go into Newburyport’s general fund. That is if the Newburyport school override would be voted in.

So I went on a hunt. And I talked to a whole lot of people. And spent a whole lot of time at the Mass DOR website.

“Proposition 21⁄2 establishes a limit on the annual property tax levy and approval of an override or exclusion question only increases the amount a community may raise in taxes. It does not authorize or require spending for the purpose of the question.”

“The additional funds raised by the override are “earmarked” for the stated spending purpose only in the first fiscal year.” (Mass DOR’s underlines, not mine)

For PDF version, please press here.

So as I understand it, an override for the Newburyport schools would only be earmarked for one year. After that, the money would be allocated with all other funds as part of the annual budget process.

Whether or not the override would continue to be allocated to the Newburyport schools, as I understand it, is a very grey area. There are no guarantees.

The only guarantee that an override would be allocated for the schools permanently, is if it were for purposes of funding a Stabilization Fund or a “Rainy Day Fund,” a change made to Massachusetts General Law in 2003.

The one thing that is definite, is that if an override would pass, it would be a permanent tax increase.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Editor’s Note: I received this email from Mass DOR which I will pass onto the readers of the Newburyport Blog:

“Mary:

In order for an override for schools to be effective to increase the town’s levy limit, any appropriation for the specific purpose of the override must be at least the amount of the override, in the first year. That does not necessarily mean that additional appropriations have to be made to the schools, dependent on the specific language of the override purpose. After the first year, there is no requirement that the override amount be appropriated to the schools in order for the override to provide additional levy capacity. See our publication entitled Proposition 2½, part IV.A.1 on page 9 (PDF version), which also provides more information on Proposition 2½.

Gary A. Blau, Tax Counsel
Bureau of Municipal Finance Law
PO Box 9569
Boston, MA 02114-9569
617-626-2400
blau@dor.state.ma.us”

Newburyport, Federal and State Funding

The Newburyport Daily News has the “infamous” model of what could have happened to downtown Newburyport in their lobby. The model is on loan from the Historical Society of Old Newbury.

And the Newburyport Daily News graciously allowed me to photograph it.

Here is the part that would have been the “infamous” strip mall downtown.

NRA.model-1.jpg
Model of what was proposed for Newburyport, MA
Market Square

This portion is of what Market Square would have looked like. A parking lot with an “L” shaped one-storey building in the corner.

Ouch!

It would have prevented Newburyport from ever looking like this:

Market-Sq.jpg
Market Square, Newburyport MA, 2007
Photograph courtesy of Mary Baker Eaton

Goodness.

And a very big thank you to both the Historical society of Old Newbury and the Newburyport Daily News.

One asks oneself, “what can we learn from this?”

Of course there are so many things to be learned from what almost could have been.

What comes to my mind at this moment in time, is that “things take time.” “Panic” is not a good reason to do anything. A united community helps to create projects that are effective and effect generations. And that there is no way Newburyport, MA could exist as it is today without federal funding.

And of course, I am thinking about our schools. My guess is that it could be possible for a spring override for the Newburyport schools to get voted in, when it is put before the Newburyport City Council yet a second time around.

We are, however, a community that is very much divided about this issue. And in part, I feel a state of “panic” is a driving force. And a state of “panic” often wipes out reason and courtesy.

And maybe most importantly, there is no way, at least in this blogger’s mind, that we could ever restore the cuts that have been made to our Newburyport schools and maintain their integrity without help from the state and federal level. The money simply is not here.

The good news is, that according to an article in the Boston Globe, March 28, 2007, “Lawmakers feeling local pressure for more school aid,” by Lisa Wangsness, Newburyport, MA is far from alone. According to the article there are about 40 communities facing an override this year. “A lot of communities are at the end of their ropes and don’t have many options left.”

However, there appears to be hope. From what I read in the article, it is possible that suburban communities might finally get the assistance that they so desperately need.

And I imagine that our own State Representatives, Michael Costello and Steven Baddour are doing everything that they possibly can to help relieve Newburyport’s school situation.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

From the Chair of the Newburyport School Committee, Part 1

Dear Mary,

I am humbled and honored to be a member of the Newburyport School Committee, and serve as the committee’s vice chair. As a School Committee member, within my relations with the community my primary responsibility is to the children. As an elected official, I have been entrusted by the voters with the responsibility to help provide the best education for the children of Newburyport, Massachusetts.

At this time, as I have in the past, I would like to use the Newburyport Blog to share and communicate issues that are most relevant today, and that I am able to appropriately report on.

I would like to start with a detail that you included in the entry posted March 28th, 2007 “Newburyport, School Override.” Your premise that the schools would only benefit from the override for one year, should it be approved by the City Council to be voted on by the citizens of Newburyport, and pass, is incorrect. Please let me offer an explanation.

To use a recent recorded article, I’ll refer to the article in the Newburyport Daily News on Tuesday, March 27, 2007. At the top of the Newburyport page, A-3 there is an article “High School Proposal eliminates more teachers.” In the article there is a “proposed budget of $21,956,582.” Let’s use that number as a base.

That number results from Dr. Lyons restructuring and school reconfiguration plan, to be voted on by the School Committee on April 2, 2007. It reduces the budget deficit that was above $1.5 million dollars. While reducing expenses, it also creates an opportunity to add value to our schools by reengineering our educational programs to improve student achievement. This process would add value to our school district. It would also add value to the educational tax dollar, by reducing costs and adding value. Value equals quality over cost.

The plan also creates a platform from which to raise student achievement and add more value to the educational dollar within five areas of focus:
A Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum
A Best Practices Literacy Program Grades K through 6
Reading, Writing, and Critical Thinking across the curriculum for grades 7 through 12
A Redesigned Math Program for Grades 5 through 9
and
A Sustainable Technology Program

The first piece of good news is that the Redesigned Math Program is already built in, through the restructuring. It needs to be. As math achievement in grades 5 through 9 needs improvement, now. This is especially evidenced by middle school MCAS scoring.

As a School Committee we have stated our intent to hear the recommended FY ’08 budget, formally presented. This was completed on Sat. 3/24, at the conclusion of a 51/2 hour meeting, and provides adequate opportunity to invite more public discussion an input during meetings on March 28 & April 2.

Steven P. Cole
Vice Chairman, Newburyport School Committee

(Editor’s Note: Part 1 of a two part post)

From the Chair of the Newburyport School Committee, Part 2

The School Committee has been clear that we will vote on the Dr. Lyons’ recommended restructuring and reconfiguration on April 2nd, along with voting on a final override list, on that same evening.

The list is expected to cost $1.63 million dollars, the basis of the override question. We will provide detail to what each item costs, for the City Council, for our April 3rd resubmission of a transfer and order for a special election.

Should that transfer and order pass, should the special election pass an override, those dollars will be added to the school district budget.

The $21,956,582 will have $1.63 million added to it. The total FY ’08 budget will be approximately $23,586.582. I say this as I do not know the exact dollar or penny what $1.63 million will be, could be $1,630,499 for example.

When we go to prepare the FY ’09 budget, it will be based on that number, plus the typical City appropriation of 2.5%. And yes, the property tax increase stays in effect for all property owners in the city, for FY ’08, 09 and for years to come. The hope is that revenue from the state will increase in three years, and revenue from the city will improve as well.

Because we have reduced expenses we will have less cost increase for FY ’09.

Another way to protect against cost increase is to include items in the override such as a technology purchase, and allocate dollars so that the first year purchase has an impact for some of the next year, we take out less that we will need to buy in ’09.

What drives this plan is the state of Massachusetts’ outlook for school funding to be flat for the next three years, including this year. If we didn’t reduce expenses this year, we would not have closed the deficit. If we don’t add value by dollars via an override, we will not be able to add value to our educational programs. Our budget gap would remain wide today, and get wider tomorrow. By approaching it in this way, we reduce expenses, add revenue, which mitigates against a widening gap, and provides a platform to add those items to improve student achievement.

With less expenses we should have less exposure to cost increases. Of course, there will be some, but some of those may be mitigated against by results of the plan, again in reducing expenses.

What I would like to do, over the next few days, would be to provide some clear explanation and detail of what each of the five areas of focus are. I would begin with “A Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum.”

As always, any opinion that I express is my own, and does not necessarily reflect those of the School Committee or any of its individual members.

The explanation detail that I would provide is public knowledge.

I look forward to these opportunities to share this information.

Thanks,
Steven P. Cole
Vice Chairman, Newburyport School Committee

(Editor’s note: Part 2 of a two part post)

(Editor’s note: Since the “whole being sued thing” I have not had a “guest blogger” pretty much since October, and I’ve grown to like it that way. For the moment I’ve removed the “Guidelines and Overview” as well as the “FAQ” page from the Newburyport Blog. I am giving a lot of thought to what the policy of the Newburyport Blog might be. Many thanks to Steven Cole, but I think Mr. Cole will be the last guest blogger, at least for a while, until I figure out what I would like to do. Mary Eaton, editor of the Newburyport Blog.)

Newburyport, School Override

One of the things I learned on Monday night, March 26, 2007, watching the Newburyport City Council meeting on TV, was that even if an override for the Newburyport schools could be voted in, the Newburyport schools would benefit for only one year.

After that year, the money would go into the general fund, and the schools would only get 45% or 50% or whatever the percentage of the Newburyport budget is, that goes to the Newburyport schools each year. The residents of Newburyport, MA would still pay their higher taxes.

And next spring, parents and the Newburyport School Committee would be in the very same predicament, and the residence could be asked to raise their taxes yet once again.

We would be voting for a band aid that wouldn’t stick. It would a band aid that would peel off.

This was new news to me. And I was even less inclined to upped my taxes than I was before.

I do want to reinstate so many of the cuts that have been made to our schools over the last 4-5 years. But an override does not appear to be the way to do it.

I have no idea about these things, but I would be much more inclined to support a one-time debt exclusion where the money goes into a fund for the schools, is managed, and the schools can draw from the income of that fund every year. And that fund could gradually be added onto.

I do not know if this idea, or something like it, would be possible or not.

And when I read that the Newburyport School Committee and various parents would be planning to resubmit the override at the next Newburyport City Council, my blood pressure just about went off the charts. (The override did not pass by a 7 to 3 vote.)

As I understand it, resubmitting the override may be legal, but it is my opinion that it would be politically unwise.

Residents in the city of Newburyport are angry over this matter. The city of Newburyport is already divided. And to resubmit an override after it was defeated 7-3 would be to invite further hostility towards young families and the Newburyport School Committee. I do not believe that this would a good idea or in the long run, help solve the problem at hand.

Let’s say the Newburyport City Council is worn down by a repeat (or repeated??) resubmissions. People will vote, but they will be pissed.

I would urge the Newburyport School Committee and the parents who are behind the present Newburyport school override to think. To act wisely. To use political savvy. Because at the moment, it feels like emotional blackmail, at least to this blogger.

It would be much better to figure out a thoughtful, beneficial, win-win solution, than to go down this very detrimental path. It might be one thing to “win the battle,” but it would be quite another thing to “lose the war,” something that would hurt the entire city of Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, 64-66 Lime Street and Wheelwright Property

For those of you concerned about the demolition of the 2 historic properties at 64-66 Lime Street, c1850 and c1735, that project comes before the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) tonight.

7PM
Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Newburyport City Hall
Newburyport City Council Chambers

This is the proposed 64-66 Lime Street plot plan, PDF version, courtesy of the Newburyport Preservation Trust.

Also, yesterday I went and photographed the “new” version of the Wheelwright subdivision plans.

The road has been changed. There are still 4 houses. They have been moved further away from the Oak Hill Cemetery, further down the hill towards, what I call, “the wetlands.”

Wh1_.3_07.jpg
Map of the “new” proposed plans for the
Wheelwright Property

Wh.map.1.jpg
Map of the “old” plans, November 2006, for the
Wheelwright Property

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, A Divided Community

It’s been a long time since I have seen a issue in Newburyport, MA that is as divisive as the upcoming vote tonight regarding the spring override for the Newburyport schools, at tonight’s Newburyport City Council meeting.

No matter how the vote goes at tonight’s Newburyport City Council meeting, the world as we know it will not end, the City of Newburyport will not come to a halt, people will not leave the City of Newburyport, MA in droves.

What has happened, however, is that neighbors are pitted against neighbors, families are pitted against families, hard working folks trying to work for the good of Newburyport, MA are barely speaking to each other. Sometimes they are not speaking to each other at all.

Threats and dire predictions of Newburyport’s future, on both sides of the issue have been made. The Newburyport community seems to be consumed and fracture by this issue.

Empathy and reason appear to be in the wind.

And to me, this is a tragedy.

Is this issue so important and life altering that it is worth it for this state of affairs have taken place?

Frankly, I don’t think so.

And no matter how the vote goes tonight, it is my great hope, that we as a community would be able to put this issue in perspective. And the venom and blame that I hear, would have a chance of being put aside.

It’s simply not worth it folks.

And most selfishly, I would be able to stop monitoring my phone calls, and be able to stop holding my breath and close my eyes every time I check my email.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Urban Renewal

Given what I call Newburyport’s often “historic amnesia” I am very grateful to the Newburyport Daily News for their series on Newburyport’s Urban Renewal, “A Port In Progress.”

The series can be found online. According to the Newburyport Daily News, the newspaper would like to “carry “A Port in Progress” over a long haul.”

My hope would be that the Newburyport Daily News would leave this series up permanently, because it is the only thing that I am able to find online about Newburyport’s Urban Renewal.

From an informal conversation, it sounds as if the Newburyport Daily News has been working on this for a long time, not only on the stories, but going through various archives for the photographs about Newburyport’s Urban Renewal as well.

And for me, having those photographs easily available to the public of what Newburyport was like, is priceless.

I moved here in 1981, just after downtown Newburyport had been restored. The rest of Newburyport, MA was beginning to follow. And it was far from the “upscale metropolis” that it is now in 2007.

One of my concerns as I’ve been blogging, is that the people who have moved here “recently” (and that can be defined in so many ways) have no idea of the kind of trauma and then growing pains this small New England seaport city has experienced in the last 4 decades, a very short amount of time.

One look at some of the photographs of the demolition and then agonizing restoration, puts so much of what Newburyport has been through in perspective, almost instantaneously.

So check out this series “ A Port In Progress ” by the Newburyport Daily News. It is a series to be learned from and it is a real service to our community.

A very big “thank you” to the Newburyport Daily News.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Chocolates and Buy Local

This is why we need these Buy Local folks.

We’ve got a new chocolate shop in town, opened and run by one of our good “newbies.” And yes, and there is a “Buy Local” decal in the store window.

BuyLocal.jpg

The place is called “Ballotin Chocolates.” And it’s amazing.

It just opened. The proprietess, Ms Lisa Bleicken is a sweetie (no pun intended). And a real talented young lady at that.

Ms Bleicken is a fairly new local and a local architect, contractors etc were used to set this great place up.

And it’s all about chocolate.

I’ve never seen such beautiful chocolates. They look like unbelievable tiny sculptures. And Ms Bleicken had a very hard time convincing me to actually bite into one.

But, my, I was glad I did.

Yum.

Chocolate samples, chocolate cook books, cookies, chocolate children’s books, chocolate creams and soap.

And the whole place looks like it might expand one day to London, Paris, Rome and New York. Classy place.

This is why we need these “Buy Local” folks. A great new entrepreneur in town putting money back into the local economy. Yes, this is a very good thing. Much better than a chocolate chain store, Yikes!

So go check out this new “Buy Local” store out. Great for Mother’s Day, Easter, anniversaries, “thank you’s” and a “just treat yourself because it’s a great idea” day.

Ballotin Chocolates
16 Unicorn Street
(The small street across from the Newburyport Post Office)
Newburyport, MA
978-465-3800
ballotinchocolates.com

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Conversation About our Schools

I had a conversation with a Newburyport School Committee member about my complete confusion about what is going on.

One of the things I was told was the Newburyport Elementary School Needs Report would be completely off the table. With the refiguring of the Newburyport Kindergarten and the Newburyport Elementary Schools, building new elementary schools would no longer be necessary.

Let me tell you, if this is true, this is big news to me, and I would imagine it would be big news to most folks.

That means, if this conversation is valid, the Taj Mahal approach to our Newburyport Elementary Schools Needs is no longer an issue, and would NOT be something that the residents of Newburyport, MA would be asked to vote for. (ie NOT be asked ever to vote for a 30 million plus spanking new elementary school system. Repairs, most definitely needed, new school, maybe not?)

The Elementary School Needs report is still on the City of Newburyport Schools website, so it doesn’t sound like this one is exactly official. But if it is being considered, this is something the voters would definitely like to know about, pronto.

One of my other (of many) inquiries was whether the Newburyport School Committee was supporting Newburyport Superintendent Kevin Lyons and his refiguring of the Kindergarten and Newburyport Elementary Schools. The answer was “yes.” And the Newburyport School Committee would be taking a vote on that plan soon.

Also big news to me. And I think big news to most folks.

There was also a conversation about selling the Kelly School and putting that money into a trust, to be used for improvements to the Newburyport school system. In theory, other people and organizations could also add to that trust. (Wouldn’t that be nice. I’d love that one.)

And there was also a discussion about no longer needing the Cherry Hill property. And now having the option of selling that property and adding it to the theoretical trust.

Really big news on that one.

All of this sounded rational, organized and sane. I hope that it is all true.

If any of this information could be true, it would be my wish for the Newburyport School Committee to “communicate” this. Because I most certainly have been very confused. First asking for a Taj Mahal approach to our elementary schools, a very short while ago, and then asking for an override vote for capital expenditures, and no vote yet on Superintendent Kevin Lyon’s restructuring plan.

May rational thought rule. And could any of this be true, may we all be informed of this “new” agenda.

(And as a PS… I’ve now started to monitor my phone calls again, after a happy, but brief “no monitoring” period, until this whole school override, restructuring thing is resolved. Otherwise I’d be on the phone 24/7 with various and sundry “trying to set me straight.” An emotional issue.

My condolences to the Newburyport School Committee members, the Newburyport City Council and the Mayor. They don’t get the “blogger privilege” of the “call monitoring” thing. But then they ran for office.)

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Demolition Application 58-60 Purchase Street

58-60 Purchase Street has come before the Newburyport Historical Commission for a Demolition Permit.

This is the two-family house next to the Methodist Church on Purchase Street. According to the Newburyport GIS map the house was built in 1879.

From what I understand, the applicants were very responsive to the Newburyport Historical Commission’s input last Thursday night, March 15, 2007. What a relief it would be if that receptiveness could continue.

This demolition application along with the proposed demolition of 64-66 Lime Street makes 3 demolition desires in one small area of the South End of Newburyport in the last month alone.

The informal meeting about the 64-66 Lime Street property is today:

7:00 PM
Tuesday
March 20, 2007
Newburyport City Hall

Moderated by Ward 2 City Councilor Gregory Earls.

(Proposed 64-66 Lime Street plot plan. PDF version. Courtesy of the Newburyport Preservation Trust).

And to quote from The National Architectural Trust again:

“Despite placement on the National Register and local efforts to protect the community, demolition, development and period inappropriate alterations and additions have effectively replaced one third of these historic (Newburyport) properties.”

One third of our historic assets lost and counting.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, supportNBPT.org Meeting

Dear Newburyport Citizen,

As an active and concerned member of the Newburyport community, I urge you to join us upstairs at the Grog on Thursday, March 29th, at 7pm to learn more about how you can make a difference in:

- preserving the local character of Newburyport
- supporting locally-owned independent businesses
- preventing chains from taking over the downtown and waterfront

We are supportNBPT.org, an organization dedicated to educating the public about the benefits of locally-owned independent businesses, and advocating for the citizens of Newburyport in order to guide development in our city that will benefit the community. The March 29th meeting will focus on presenting our goals and taking questions from the community. Specifically, we will discuss a formula store ordinance we are drafting to present to city council in April. The ordinance would encourage locally owned businesses, and place limits on the number and extent of formula businesses (“chains”) in the downtown and waterfront areas of our city.

Our objective is to prevent national chains from taking over downtown Newburyport and detracting from the unique character of the city that we all love. Newburyport already has a Starbucks, four Dunkin Donuts (one downtown), a Talbots and more. With an $800 million commercial development project being planned on our waterfront and other possibilities along State and Pleasant streets, supportNBPT.org will be providing a voice for the citizens of Newburyport who value locally-owned, independent businesses.

We are taking a proactive stance to protect our unique downtown character and direct growth towards the benefit of the community, not just large corporations. Please join us, and Spread The Word!!

When: Thu March 29, 7-9pm
Where: Upstairs at the Grog, 13 Middle St, Newburyport
Cost: Free admission, although we welcome donations; cash bar

RSVP: Send e-mail to info@supportnbpt.org. Please indicate the number of people who will be attending.

For more information, go to www.supportNBPT.org.

Best Regards,
The supportNBPT.org Organization

BuyLocal.jpg

Gene Volovich
Newburyport

Newburyport, Gardiner Bacon, Mayoral Season has Begun

I’ve know Gardiner Bacon and his family for 10-12 years or so. So when I heard that Mr. Bacon, a Newburyport High School senior, was running for mayor of Newburyport, MA, I thought, “Well, that actually makes sense.”

I remember reading a Letter to the Editor in the Newburyport Daily News (which for the life of me, I cannot find) by Gardiner Bacon, and thinking, “Darn, that’s good. Too bad everyone, young, old and in between couldn’t write Letters to the Editor like that!”

And from what I know of Mr. Bacon, he is amazingly bright and amazingly articulate. And, it would be my guess that Mr. Bacon could run rings around most people “older” than he is.

This is no practical joke, no “fly by night” whim on Gardiner Bacon’s part. This is serious folks.

And as we wring our hands (me very much included) over the predicament of our schools, let’s not forget that this is a Newburyport High School senior who has decided to run for mayor of Newburyport, MA.

A Newburyport High School senior that got into Antioch College. Not exactly a slouchy place, or for that matter, a bastion of conservative thinking.

The very little I know about Antioch College, they might even give Mr. Bacon Political Science college credit for running for mayor. And well they should. Talk about “life experience.”

And from my brief “chat” with Mr. Bacon, it appears that it is possible that Antioch College might well defer his enrollment. Whew.

And in Newburyport, MA, anything, anything is possible. So, folks, hang on to your hats. This political season has just put a wide-eyed grin on this blogger’s face.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Future of our Schools

I have heard a lot of information recently about the future of our schools in Newburyport. I would first like to discuss the rich history of Newburyport and it’s commitment to education.

I have worked and lived in this community as a social worker for almost 20 years. Many Newburyporters born and raised here have shared with me the importance of their neighborhoods. This has traditionally been a close knit community. Southenders have talked about the Brown School with deep affection. Downtowners have talked with love about the Kelly School. North and Westenders have talked about the warmth of the Bellville School (now known as the Bresnahan). It appears that some of what has knitted this community together is its neighborhoods and the schools where parents meet on the playground waiting for their children.

I know times have changed and the people that have lived here. I’ve been here long enough now that I grieve missing buildings, businesses and people. Nobody likes too much change. We can guarantee this change with the redistribution of children from community schools to city wide schools.

I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Lyons. I know that these changes are due to the lack of financial support on a Federal and State level, not just a community level. I don’t think it is productive to blame any one community group for this.

I also am a graduate of public school education and my son has had the benefit of an incredible education here in Newburyport. I don’t want a private education for my son. I believe some of the most dedicated educators are those in our own community.

I know the teachers purchase the majority of supplies on their incomes. I know that if we averaged the income of those in our community today, they might not reach the income of our teachers. I also believe that part of what makes a community great is its dedication to education.

I recently read a book about Newburyport History, “Newburyport: Stories from the Waterside” by Liz Nelson. I was not aware that in 1843 Newburyport established the first female high school in America. “A newspaper article fifty years later describes….efforts as being “bitterly opposed by the citizens…who could not tolerate…so vulgar a notion” …..The school committee presented a highly favorable report to the town meeting” and it was voted in!

I think that we need to consider as a community what will be said in future generations about us. Will we have established a precedence of caring about education or will it be bitterly opposed? Will we have a close knit community?

I ask you to give citizens of Newburyport the right to vote on the future of our community and its schools. 1) on an override that would only last three years, and 2) if we want a community wide school versus a neighborhood school.

I think that we all should have the right, just as they did in 1843, to decide what our future holds.

Lindamae Lucas
Newburyport

(Editor’s note: The quotation above is from “Newburyport: Stories from the Waterside,” Liz Nelson, Commonwealth Editions, Beverly, MA, 2000, pages 54 and 55.)

Newburyport, Meeting on 64-66 Lime Street

As you probably have been made aware, there is a proposal to develop the property at 64 and 66 Lime Street. The plans are to build two single family homes on that site which entails the demolition of the existing house and store.

As the City Councilor representing Ward 2, I have planned a meeting of neighbors, abutters and people interested in discussing the project for:

7:00 PM
Tuesday
March 20, 2007
Newburyport City Hall

I anticipate sharing the upstairs auditorium with another group or moving the meeting to an office next to the auditorium if space allows.

To date I have heard from people who are opposed to the project as well as from people who have expressed support. It would be appreciated if you could attend so that many different opinions could be heard.

This is an informal meeting and is not intended to be an “official” City Hearing or Meeting. It will be a chance to discuss the project with your neighbors and the community in an informal setting.

The Developer of the project will be present and I will be moderating so that we may have a constructive meeting.

Please call with questions or comments. I look forward to seeing you there.

Gregory Earls
25 Milk Street
978 465-9324

(Editor’s note: Proposed 64-66 Lime Street plot plan. PDF version. Courtesy of the Newburyport Preservation Trust.)

Newburyport, Loss of Neighborhood Schools

When the Newburyport School Committee does vote on Superintendent Kevin Lyons’ restructuring of the Newburyport Kindergarten and Elementary Schools, I imagine that it would be a very emotional vote.

Neighborhood elementary schools have been part of the fabric of Newburyport, MA since, like forever. I imagine it would feel like losing something comforting and familiar. Losing part of the soul of Newburyport, MA.

A very commonsense and pragmatic solution to an incredible conundrum by Superintendent Kevin Lyons. But also a solution that would be painful for many in Newburyport, MA.

If it does happen, that will be a lot for this small seaport city to absorb.

And I think asking residents to also process (in my mind) a large spring override for the Newburyport School system, would be asking way too much.

I think it might be hard enough to drum up support by November.

I know there are a lot of concerned, worried and involved parents who are actively organizing for a spring override. But it is my very strong belief, that the city of Newburyport, MA needs time to absorb all the changes that are before them.

In a time of loss (and I think closing the Kelly School and restructuring Kindergarten and the Newburyport Elementary Schools is a loss) people tend to hold on to their pocketbooks. I think it would be very unwise to ask people to add to their tax burden on top of all of this, especially when the new residential assessments are coming out, and people do not know what their new taxes would be. (And I imagine that they are not going down folks.)

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Preserving Our Historic Assets

I’ve just read the editorial in the Newburyport Daily News, March 14, 2007 on the beginning of the process of protecting Newburyport’s historic heritage, the appointment of a Historic District Study Committee.

The Historic District Study Committee was appointed by Mayor John Moak and was (as I understand it) unanimously passed by the Newburyport City Council this Monday, March 12, 2007. Good for the Newburyport City Council and good for Mayor John Moak.

By law the Historic District Study Committee has to be diverse. (If you Google “Massachusetts General Law 40C,” you will find it, and you will find out that, yes indeed, this is a long and thoughtful process with gobs of public input.)

The Historic District Study Committee by law has to consist of 3-7 people. The Study Committee has to include an architect, a realtor and a member appointed by the Newburyport Historical Commission.

The idea here, as I understand it, is not to scare everyone into thinking they are going to live in a museum and have no say on their property rights. That’s the old fear laden concept that has kept us from protecting our historic assets lo these many, many years.

The idea here is for the Historic District, if it ever comes about, to be “user friendly” for goodness sakes. (And NOT doing anything silly like dictating paint color, good grief!)

And just for giggles this is from the website of the The National Architectural Trust.

“In Newburyport, Massachusetts, the local government tried unsuccessfully to fund a preservation commission to monitor and protect the second largest single community of Federal style architecture in the United States. This community of 2,600 homes has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1984. Despite placement on the National Register and local efforts to protect the community, demolition, development and period inappropriate alterations and additions have effectively replaced one third of these historic properties.”

You read correctly. According to The National Architectural Trust we have lost one third of our historic properties since 1984.

Think what will be left if we continue that nifty trend.

So, I really, really did not appreciate the editorial in the Newburyport Daily News, March 14, 2007. We can do Historic District “user friendly,” for goodness sakes.

And I don’t think anyone is against energy efficient houses. And somehow I think that the realtor and the architect on the Historic Study Committee will take into consideration people’s property rights.

So let’s get out of the terrified, fear-ridden, preservation dark ages, and get into the preservation light-filled present.

By law, this is a long and thoughtful process with gobs of public input and has to be passed by two-thirds of the Newburyport City Council.

Let’s not jump to panic ridden conclusions here.

Instead, let’s give all the parties involved in this one a round of applause.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Educational Spring Override

Sorry folks, now that we have a doable plan from Superintendent Kevin Lyons on the restructuring of our kindergarten and Newburyport elementary schools, I am no longer for a spring override.

I am enormously frustrated by the Newburyport School Committee (and believe me I think they have one of the toughest jobs in Newburyport, MA).

On the issue of an override, it appears to me that the Newburyport School Committee has seemed disjointed and unorganized. And frankly, it’s late in the game. Way too late in the game.

What many of the Newburyport City Councilors have been telling the Newburyport School Committee is true. To convince folks to pony up and raise their taxes takes time. Lots and lots of time, thought and organization, if there is a whiff of a hope of getting an override passed.

To quote in the Newburyport Daily News, March 13, 2007:

“(School Committee member Andrea Jones ) Jones said she believes city councilors’ reluctance to support the School Committee’s override request is driven by their own re-election concerns.

“Saying there’s not enough time is just the council’s excuse this week for not supporting the override,” Jones said. “It’s an election year, and anyone who’s running for re-election needs to be very careful how they talk about anything that affects taxes.” ”

It is my opinion that Ms Jones is way off base. This is not a selfish, self-serving Newburyport City Council. And if that quote is accurate, I am disappointed.

The Newburyport School Committee hasn’t even voted on whether or not to endorse Superintendent Kevin Lyon’s restructuring plan. (The Newburyport Daily News, March 13, 2007.)

One would think a vote on that very thoughtful problem solving solution would come first. And then a long and well thought out campaign, involving a well thought out plan, to ask the residents of Newburyport, MA to pony up money for education. Not the rush job that’s in the works now, no matter how well intentioned.

The Newburyport City Council is correct. If this vote fails (and I can tell you, at the moment, I would not vote for an override now), there is little hope of the getting the residents of Newburyport to take the Newburyport School Committee seriously in any way shape or form. This could be a major political blunder.

It seems to me that a leader like Superintendent Kevin Lyons, doesn’t come along very often, and it might be wise for the Newburyport School Committee to follow his lead.

What the Newburyport School Committee has been doing, in my mind, is really, really frustrating.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Mangling Our Historic Assets

More mangling of our historic assets. Oy veh.

64-66 Lime Street. We are talking about Stickney’s neighborhood store (c1850), a neighborhood store which I have always loved, but hey they want to sell it.

And we are talking about a very old gambrel (c1735) that also goes with the property that also runs along Milk Street. That’s the one I really care about.

And the developers, 
Mark DePiero, president of DePiero LLC, and Steve Coyle, president of MSC Realty Development (Newburyport Daily News, March 8, 2007) would like to demolish them both and put up two, not one, two 2,300 and 2,700 square feet homes.

Yikes.

This in from the Newburyport Preservation Trust:

“To implement their development plan, the proposed buyer(s) will need a Section 6C Special Permit from the Planning Board in order to build 2 new buildings on this lot. The lot size is listed at 4,920 sq feet. According to the Planning Office, the minimum lot size required to build a single-family home in this district is 8,000 sq feet.”

Excuse me.

These folks are also going to need Special Permits/Variances from the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals, as well as being excused by the Newburyport Historical Commission for a Demolition Delay.

Ok, Mark DePiero has good taste. But he does replicas. If there is a vacant lot, Ok, a replica (maybe).

But here, we are talking about tearing down an historic asset, something that makes it economically worthwhile for everybody in Newburyport, MA. The reason people want to live, work, visit and play in this place. And put up a replica for the real existing deal.

This makes me want to scream.

And this is a tiny lot. 4,920 Square Feet. Two large structures on 4,920 Square feet.

Say what?

So I hope (March 27, 2007 is when it is on the docket) that the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals says “NO, NO, NO, you do not get to destroy Newburyport’s historic assets, the city of Newburyport, MA will not be diminished one more time.”

I hope the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals says a big fat “no thank you.”

For goodness sakes, restore the historic asset, bring it back to it’s glory. Make us all proud.

So far Mr. DePiero has gotten a bit of a pass. But not after this one folks. Don’t let this one happen. Please. Not when there are so many tangible reasons NOT to let this one take place.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

(Editor’s note: Proposed 64-66 Lime Street plot plan. PDF version. Courtesy of the Newburyport Preservation Trust.)