NEWBURYPORT — The City Council made sure work on the Bartlet Mall revitalization project will get underway next year after unanimously approving a $2.5 million bond request Tuesday night.
Mayor Sean Reardon has been working with the manager of special projects, Kim Turner, to clean up subsoil contaminants such as arsenic, chromium and lead from Bartlet Mall and its 4-foot-deep Frog Pond.
The revitalization project calls for the installation of a liner to prevent phosphorus and muck from circulating in the water, which would be oxygenated.
Chief of Staff Andrew Levine said the project is in the design phase, which he added is on track to be finished by the end of the year.
The bond comes from Community Preservation Committee-approved funding for the estimated $2.79 million revitalization project.
Turner said the remaining $200,000 needed to completely fund the project has already been collected through this year’s contributions under the Community Preservation Act and added that construction should begin by late summer or early fall.
“Its been a long process with a lot of help from the Parks Commission, Parks Commissioner Chuck Griffin and a lot of folks contributing over the years,” she said. “It’s going to be great to see the Bartlet Mall restored to what it should be.”
The mayor is getting a second chance to fulfill some of his lost budget requests after the City Council unanimously referred his $271,400 supplemental budget request to the Budget & Finance Committee on Tuesday.
Reardon submitted his $78.9 million annual operating budget to the City Council in the spring. The council, however, cut $198,200 from the mayor’s proposal and approved a $78.6 million budget in June.
But the mayor was able to submit a $271,400 supplemental budget to the City Council on Tuesday night, thanks to $281,790 in available revenue consisting of cuts made to the fiscal 2023 budget proposal as well as increased local aid in the final state budget.
Reardon hopes to hire additional information technology staff members ($61,000 for a full-time employee, $21,000 for a part-time worker, as well as a $3,825 travel allowance).
He also would like to spend money on several other departments: $10,800 to train new police officers going to the police academy; $20,000 for shift coverage in the Fire Department; $30,000 for temporary rental space for Newburyport Youth Services; $35,000 to make sure the proper level of surfacing is in place for the city’s playgrounds; and $50,000 in supplemental legal funding to give city stakeholders a chance to engage in negotiations for a Waterfront West development agreement.
Levine said the supplemental budget also gives Reardon’s administration a chance to fund a part-time administrative assistant position in Veterans Services ($19,500) that did not make the cut in this year’s operating budget.
The city is part of an intermunicipal agreement to fund and run Veterans Services with Amesbury and Salisbury. Levine said hiring the administrative assistant would allow Newburyport to come into compliance with state staffing requirements.
“We would like to do our part to fund that position and better support the veterans in this area,” he said.
The mayor’s supplemental budget also calls for $62,275 in increased funding for sidewalk improvements based on stronger-than-anticipated meals tax collection in fiscal 2022.
“We have a process where half of our meals tax money goes toward sidewalks and this would bring us up to the exact half,” Levine said. “So we would like to see that happen as well.”
Reardon pointed to the recently completed State Street sidewalk repair project running from Garden to High streets as an example of sidewalk funding at work.
“If you touch a street with (state) Chapter 90 money, then you have to do the sidewalks. In this community, we use half of our meals tax for that. We also received a bump in (federal American Rescue Plan Act) money that we put aside to do 23 streets this year. But that also gives us the flexibility to look at intersections to see which ones we can make more safe or to put sidewalks in an area that maybe doesn’t have them. It also sets us up for more success next year,” he said.
The mayor added that his supplemental budget request gives him a second take on the operating budget.
“The council didn’t see the need for a lot of these things, like the Veterans Services administrative assistant position. But, by providing this extra information and the fact that it keeps us in compliance and is part of this partnership with these other communities, that gives us a chance to make our case better,” he said.
The City Council unanimously referred the mayor’s supplemental budget to the Budget & Finance Committee on Tuesday night.
“They will hash it out there and that committee will decide whether or not it wants to refer it back to the City Council,” Reardon said.
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.