NEWBURYPORT — The mayor announced he would like to submit new plans for the Parks Department and Newburyport Youth Services to the City Council by late November.
Mayor Sean Reardon pulled his plan to roll the Parks Department into the Department of Public Services before the council was to vote on the proposal Sept. 27.
Weeks later, Reardon also decided to hold off on presenting his proposal to move Youth Services to Low Street. In both instances, Reardon said he wanted to build more consensus on the council before it voted on the plans.
The mayor made his announcement during an appearance on the “Local Pulse” internet radio show Saturday, telling host Joe DiBiase that he decided to pull his parks plan because “it became apparent that it was going to become a really close vote” on the 11-member council.
“Up or down, I don’t know where it was going to go,” he said.
After speaking to some city councilors, Reardon said pausing his parks plan was the best way to reach a positive consensus.
The mayor said his administration has been working with local resident Andrea Eigerman to create a volunteer Friends of Newburyport Parks fundraising group that would eventually replace the Parks Conservancy.
The Parks Conservancy is a subsidiary of the Mayor Gayden W. Morrill Charitable Foundation that raises money for park maintenance and improvements.
“That organization has done a lot of great things for Newburyport, Reardon said. “They continue, each and every year, to donate and work with the Parks Commission to come up with some really great projects and we’re going to continue to do that.
“The conservancy piece, I don’t think works for the city,” he added. “So we are going to have this new Friends of Newburyport Parks group that is going to be a little bit more transparent, a little bit more responsive to residents and, going forward, it is going to be a better partner with the Parks Commission.”
Reardon said his administration is studying other communities that have eliminated their parks departments and that he wants to present an order for his new plan, hopefully with the endorsement of the Parks Commission, to the City Council by the end of November.
The mayor also said he is looking for a City Council vote that is unanimous or at least 10-1.
“Obviously, I have learned a lot by going through this process with the current City Council,” he said. “But we would have those meetings and those conversations with city councilors and talk about that process before we submit it again.”
The council voted to purchase the former National Guard building at 59 Low St. for $220,000 last winter. The Parks Department would need to move from that property to make way for Youth Services next year.
Reardon intends to present his Youth Services proposal, which he said includes a gymnasium as well as a bond request, to the City Council after he can have one-on-one discussions with councilors starting as soon as next week.
“I want to try to answer some of their questions and give them access to the plans that we have been working on before we bring it to the full council in the hopes that it becomes a much smoother process,” he said.
Reardon added that he hopes to present his Youth Services plan to the council at one of its three meetings in November.
“(This is) what I think is going to be just a magnificent facility for our Newburyport Youth Services that generations of kids in Newburyport are going to enjoy,” he said.
At-large City Councilor Bruce Vogel said he has yet to speak to the mayor about the two plans but added, “What’s the rush?”
“We already rushed into (the parks plan) once. Why not put it out to the public first, so we’re not under the gun, like the first time? We already stumbled through it the first time, why pressure cook it?” he asked.
Vogel added that the council will have 60 days to either accept the mayor’s proposal or not. He pointed out that November and December may not be the best months to do so.
“He’s going to come before us and give us 60 days in the middle of the holidays?” Vogel said.
Ward 5 City Councilor Jim McCauley said he has scheduled an appointment with Reardon to discuss the Youth Services proposal and that the mayor has the right idea when it comes to building as much consensus on the council as possible before presenting his plans.
“I think this is the process moving forward and I welcome it,“ he said. “I haven’t seen or heard about the plan, other than the fact that they have a plan. I don’t know what the price tag is and I don’t know what the bond order is.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.