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Peabody’s general obligation municipal purpose loan nets very low 2.042% interest rate

10 Apr

The following press release was sent to The Eye by Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s office.

From the Mayor’s Office

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt, Jr., is pleased to announce that the City of Peabody received competitive bids from bond underwriters on Wednesday, April 3, 2013, for $10,533,000 General Obligation Bonds.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch was the winning bidder on the Bonds with an average interest rate of 2.042%.  Bond proceeds will be used to finance Library Building Improvements, Water Treatment Plant Upgrades, Flood Mitigation, as well as to refinance bonds of the City dated February 1, 2005.  The refinancing will generate total savings of $327,327.

Prior to the sale, Moody’s Investors Service, a municipal credit rating agency, affirmed the City’s “Aa1” long-term debt rating. The agency cited the City’s sizable and diverse tax base, unused levy capacity, and stable financial position as positive credit factors.

“We’re obviously very pleased with the results of this bond sale,” said Mayor Bettencourt.  “Peabody’s strong ‘Aa1’ credit rating and the continuing low interest rate market enable us to make critical infrastructure upgrades while saving taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in interest charges.”

The bids for the bonds were accepted at the office of the City’s financial advisor, First Southwest Company, at 54 Canal Street in Boston, Massachusetts.

Council expected to side with Mayor on removing Civil Service as criteria for picking police, fire chiefs

27 Mar

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt

The Peabody City Council’s Legal Affairs Committee did the right thing last night in voting to advance to a vote of the full City Council Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s request to remove the police and fire chief’s jobs from the jurisdiction of Civil Service.

Councilor At-Large Jim Liacos said it best last night when he argued that the Mayor should have the ability to “pick his own team” without being hamstrung by Civil Service scores. Removing the barrier allows Peabody to find the best candidate for filling those executive positions, starting with the selection of a new police chief when Chief Robert Champagne retires on June 1.

There is also the issue of a Mayor being able to fire a department head based on performance.  Right now, unless there is some malfeasance, that’s not allowed under the Civil Service system.

Although Civil Service test scores need to remain an effective way of avoiding political patronage when it comes to hiring rank-and-file firefighters and police officers, a Mayor should have the right to pick his/her own department heads and executive team, regardless of test scores. I wrote about this earlier in the Eye, if you’d like to read more.

“We all want the best candidate, the most qualified person, for this critically important position and I believe removing the chief position, for both police and fire, from Civil Service gives us the best chance of finding the right person,” Bettencourt said.

Just three members of the Legal Affairs Committee were present last night, with Councilors Liacos and Bob Driscoll supporting the Mayor’s request. Councilor At-Large Anne Manning-Martin wasn’t supportive of the Mayor’s request.

The matter will now go before the full council on Thursday, where it’s expected to pass. The vote would serve as a home rule petition that the state legislature would then have to approve and have signed by the Governor.

You can read the full story here in the Peabody Patch.

Please let me know where you stand by leaving a comment.

Catching up on nice honor for local hero … and more

22 Mar

(Just catching up on some things after a very busy month for work travel and the campaign.)

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Local hero Alex Romano

Local hero Alex Romano

Starting this off today by talking about an honor for a “local hero,” and a young woman who should be a model for other Peabody teens to follow.

Peabody High senior Alexndra Romano was honored this week as a local hero by the American Red Cross of Northeast Massachusetts for going above and beyond in putting together a campaign to help people who became homeless because of Hurricane Sandy. Alex called her campaign “Kill the Chill,” and it included collecting clothing and blankets, and collecting donations for storm victims, which were quickly put to use by the Red Cross.

Alex and her sister Lea are both very active in their community when it comes to public service, and it’s an awesome thing to watch in these days when many young people would rather spend their free time playing video games.

The sisters also each year organize the “Caring Carolers,” who roam our Goodale Street-area neighborhood during Christmastime singing carols door-to-door while collecting money for Haven From Hunger. Not only do they get their friends together to sing for a very good cause, but their visit to your door really makes you feel good and get into the Christmas spirit.

Angela and Mike Romano must be very proud parents!

 Want to know why we are stuck with Comcast?

Mayor Ted Bettencourt  says he is asked on an almost daily basis why Peabody is not home to any alternative providers of cable TV, high-speed internet and telephone service. Conspiracy theories abound but it turns out the answer is simple and straight forward, according to a press release The Eye received from City Hall this week:

“At this time, no other provider of the phone/cable/ internet trio of services has expressed an interest in coming to Peabody,” Mayor Bettencourt tells The Eye. “We would like residents to have a choice of providers and would certainly welcome other options. At this time however, none of the alternatives to Comcast has stepped up with a proposal.”

Mayor Bettencourt said he understands Peabody residents’ frustration with the lack of choice here. “I absolutely understand their frustrations,” Bettencourt said. “Having a choice helps assure we get the best value for our money. When there is no competition in the marketplace, people feel like they are at the mercy of a monopoly. In the final analysis however, we cannot force these competitors to set up shop in Peabody against their will.”

With some of the best known alternatives out of reach for now, Bettencourt says the city may turn its attention to niche providers who offer similar services on an individual or dual basis rather than the heavily marketed three-in-one portfolio.

“We recognize the benefit of having more than one provider of cable, phone and internet service,” said Mayor Bettencourt. “If another provider sees a market in Peabody, we are all ears.”

 Our sign of the times: Great job by Smuz and the Mayor

Hats off to Mayor Bettencourt for holding firm and instituting the cease and desist order, and to City Solicitor Michael Smerczynski for his skillful argument in court this past week on placement of the giant billboard on Lowell Street near Route 1.

Judge Howard Whitehead agreed with city officials — the 92-foot pole is definitely not where they thought it was going to be installed when he ruled against the city last year.

As reported in the Peabody Patch, Smerczynski says the issue now for Whitehead to decide is whether that truly was because of a clerical error when the plans were submitted in court or a broken promise first made to appease local officials who didn’t want the billboard there at all off Lowell Street. The city and the owner of the billboard, Total Outdoor Corp, argued their sides in Salem Superior Court this past Monday. Definitely more work to do in court before this is resolved. Stay tuned.

 Should be either Dunne or Gravel, but Cole could surprise

Going to be a very interesting Election Day on April 2 when people go to the polls to vote in the State Rep special election. Because name recognition is so important, I honestly think it’s between Democrat Beverley Griffin Dunne and unenrolled candidate David Gravel. But there is a lot of money being pumped into Republican Leah Cole’s campaign by the Republican Party and the Ron-Paul-inspirted Libery Movement. There’s also a lot of unhappiness these days with traditional candidates, so Cole might actually pull a solid number. It’s not my State Rep district, so I sort of feel cheated here. I can’t even vote! …

Great job by Councilor At-Large Tom Gould while handling the MC duties at last Saturday’s First Annual St. Patrick’s Day Roast and breakfast at City Hall. Also, a lot of surprisingly funny performances by some local politicos. I mean, who knew Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz and Mayor Bettencourt were actually funny guys? It was a really fun morning for a really great cause as all the ticket and raffle money went to Haven From Hunger.

If you are in the 12th Essex State Rep District: GET OUT AND VOTE on April 2nd!

Mayor names Rydzewski to business liaison position

4 Mar

Note: The Eye received the following press release from City Hall this morning, announcing that Mayor Ted Bettencourt had made his choice for the new business liaison position.

FROM THE MAYOR’S OFFICE:

Acting on his pledge to make Peabody more business friendly,  Mayor Ted Bettencourt has named veteran City Hall staff member Julie Rydzewski the city’s first Business Liaison.

A graduate of Merrimack College who has worked in the administrations of three Peabody mayors during her 13 years in public service, Rydzewski has served as the City’s Grants Manager since 2007.  With over six years’ experience working in Community Development, Rydzewski boasts an impressive grasp of the city’s permitting process as well as the needs and direction of Peabody’s business community.

“While we interviewed a number of very qualified individuals for the position of Business Liaison, Julie really stood out,” said Mayor Bettencourt.  “Her credentials are obviously very impressive and her knowledge of the Peabody landscape – both the inner workings of municipal government and of the community at large, is what sets her apart.”

Indeed, Rydzewski began her career in government as a paid intern in the office of former Mayor Peter Torigian.  That internship continued throughout her college years and culminated with a full time position as Senior Treasury Clerk under former Mayor Mike Bonfanti.  In addition to her role as Grants Manager under Community Development Director Karen Sawyer, Rydzewski lends her considerable skills to the Board of Health, Licensing Board, and Community Development Authority (CDA).

“I am truly honored to be chosen by Mayor Bettencourt for this exciting new position of Business Liaison,” Rydzewski said.  “The City of Peabody has so much to offer the business community in terms of a skilled workforce, favorable tax structure, great highway access, and now a dedicated advocate inside City Hall.”

Rydzewski plans to hit the ground running as Business Liaison in part based on her extensive network of contacts culled from over a dozen years working in City Hall.  In addition to being the eyes and ears of the Community Development Department since 2007,  Rydzewski is a prolific volunteer.  She lends her talent and enthusiasm to a number of civic boards including the Cultural Council, the Wellness Committee, the Restaurant Week Committee and the Snowshoe Classic 5K Race Committee.

“We cast a wide net to find the right person for this important role,” Mayor Bettencourt said.  “It turns out the right person was already here.  Julie Rydzewski will be a terrific champion for Peabody’s business community.”

Destructive Ward 5 project remains shutdown thanks to Peabody Planning Board

10 Feb

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Good government, which to me means protecting the quality of life of residents above all else, was on display again this past Thursday night.

The Peabody Planning Board remained on the side of the people living on the Winona Street side of Route 1 by backing a cease-and-desist order against a developer whose project is causing property damage and grief in this Ward 5 neighborhood.

The project, owned by builder Richard Marchese, has caused numerous resident complaints, and led Mayor Ted Bettencourt to obtain a cease-and-desist order from the city’s building inspector.

Thursday night, residents from the area told of how the clear-cutting the property of trees and other vegetation by the developer has caused flooding of property, and other destruction.

Winona Street resident Karen Anderson told the Planning Board that the destruction is “tearing the neighborhood apart.”

Others talked of water bursting into their basements, swimming pools filled with silt and mud, and one resident even told how 90% of her property had been destroyed and is now worthless.

The Planning Board listened, and kept the project shutdown. Marchese didn’t show for the hearing, allowing his attorney to be there to represent him, a fact that really bothered board member Joe Gagnon.  

“I’m very sympathetic with all the neighbors. You were harmed immensely. I’m emotional about it,” Gagnon said. “I’m very disappointed that Mr. Marchese is not here today. That really bothers me.”

Well said, Mr. Gagnon.

It’s good to see the city on the side of the residents. More to come here.

Official storm prep information from Peabody Mayor’s office

8 Feb

Hi everyone. Please get to a safe place and ride this out today.  I’m publishing the following information from the Mayor’s office. 

Stay safe,

Bob Croce

FROM THE OFFICE OF THE MAYOR

In anticipation of the expected weather event, Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt, Jr. would like to request the cooperation of residents to help support the City’s response efforts.

Schools:  Peabody Public Schools are closed on Friday, February 8, 2013.

Parking restrictions: The City of Peabody will implement its emergency parking ban effective Friday, February 8th at 8 a.m. After 8 a.m.,  and for the duration of the weather emergency, cars may not be parked on public roadways.  Any cars parked on a public roadway are subject to towing.

Mayor Bettencourt reminds both residents and the business community that the purpose of the parking ban is to allow city departments to efficiently and effectively clear the roadways to their proper widths and conditions, which is critical for the safe passage of public safety vehicles and other traffic.  The blue lights on utility poles throughout the City signal that a message has been released to the public instructing them to tune into radio 1640 AM for more details on the parking ban.

Snow removal: Mayor Bettencourt would also like to remind residents that certain sidewalks, by city ordinance, need to be cleared. We would ask that residents and businesses assist the cleanup effort by clearing their sidewalks if they are able and it is safe to do so. Please do not place snow from sidewalks into the roadway.

Communication: In addition to the blue light/AM 1640 announcements, residents are advised that all updates and additional notifications will also be made on radio stations WBZ 1030 AM and North Shore 104.9 FM.  Notifications will also be made through Nixle Alerts (www.nixle.com), City of Peabody websitewww.peabody-ma.gov, Peabody Police Department Facebook and Twitter accounts, Peabody Public Schools ConnectED system, and the Peabody Access Television channel 9 WebCrawler. The City has also set up an emergency weather telephone line at (978) 538-5758, which will provide recorded information and will be updated throughout the weekend.

Emergency shelter: The City of Peabody is prepared to open a “warming station” at the Council on Aging facility (79 Central Street) for any residents in temporary need of heat or electricity. Residents should call the business line of the Peabody Police Department at (978) 538-6385 first, so that arrangements can be made to have the warming station opened. The Council on Aging will not operate as an overnight shelter. For any residents in need of an overnight shelter, arrangements will be made at the regional American Red Cross shelter.

Power outages: Residents needing to report a power outage or downed power line should contact the Peabody Municipal Light Plant at (978) 531-5975. Please remember that downed power lines may be live, so stay away from them.  ­­

City feels it is on solid ground in demand that billboard pole be moved behind building

7 Feb

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Cleaning out the notebook of the mind as we bask in the calm before the storm.  Anyone want to bet what time the blue flashing lights go on around Peabody today?

The pole will get moved on this giant billboard

The pole will get moved on this giant billboard

A source close to the situation tells The Eye that there isn’t likely to be a court fight over moving that 90-foot billboard pole back behind the sub shop, where it was intended to go in the first place.

The City,  I’m hearing,  feels that it is on solid ground when it comes to showing that the special permit specifically outlines that the pole for the billboard at the juncture of Lowell Street and Route 1 can’t be placed near the street and next to the building.

Last week,  Mayor Ted Bettencourt asked Peabody City Solicitor Michael Smerczynski to obtain a cease-and-desist court order against the billboard company, Total Outdoor Crop. Now, we are apparently close to placing this monstrosity out of view for those who live in the Ledgewood Condos and Rolling Hill in Ward 5.

Will be interesting to see now how quickly this gets done, but once again the Mayor should get some props for acting quickly to protect quality of life. …

We hear that Guy Glodis is available to perform!

Peabody’s First Annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast and Roast will take place on Saturday, March 16th from 9 a.m. to noon in the Frank L. Wiggin Auditorium at Peabody City Hall.

The public is welcome to attend the breakfast, which will feature Irish music by “McGeney and Moore” and good-natured roasting of some of the city’s best known politicos.  The cost is $30 per person and all proceeds benefit the Haven from Hunger.

Those interested in attending the breakfast should send a check made payable to the City of Peabody to:  St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, City Hall, 24 Lowell Street, Peabody, MA 01960.  Please include the number of guests in your party.  Please respond no later than March 6th.  For more information, call Mary at 978.538.5704.

Here’s hoping that no one goes with former State Auditor candidate Guy Glodis’ old material! …

Voter registration deadline for State Rep primary Feb. 13

New to Peabody or just turned 18? Well,  you have only until Feb. 13th to register if you want to be eligible to vote in the March 5th primaries for the State Rep special election.

The Republican primary ballot has Greg Bunn, who lives in Ward 5, taking on South Peabody nurse Leah Cole for the right to advance to the April 2 final election for the 12th Essex seat (Peabody Wards 1-4, Prec. 1 and 3 in Ward 5).

School committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne will also appear on the Democratic primary ballot, but is unopposed.  One Republican, Dunne and unenrolled candidate David Gravel will square off in the final election.

If you are not enrolled in any party, you can choose either a Democratic or Republican ballot.  Considering there is no primary challenge on the Democratic side, both Republican candidates will be out trying to woo those unenrolled voters to take their ballot. …

No laboring over the police contract

The city and the unions representing about 100 police officers have worked out a 3-year contract that will include a 2 percent annual raise over the life of the collective bargaining agreement.

The new deal also comes with an agreement from the union that it will share drug testing results with the city, and allow the city to promote officers by using what is called the assessment center system. The assessment center combines the results of a Civil Service test with exercises that are intended to show how candidates would react to certain situations.

The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2012 and will expire June 30, 2015. …

Now, break out the shovels!

Governor says no to interim State Rep for Peabody

5 Feb

By Eye on Peabody

Just to update an earlier story here, Governor Deval Patrick has rejected Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s request to temporarily fill the 12th Essex State Rep seat left vacant following the death of Joyce Spilliotis, citing that there is no current law that allows for this.

 Here are more details in the Patch.

Peabody to partner with Salem State on master plan update

3 Feb

(The following is a press release from Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s office submitted to The Eye.)

sscMayor Edward A. Bettencourt, Jr. announced that the City of Peabody has partnered with Salem State University’s Center for Economic Development and Sustainability to help update criticalcomponents of the city’s Master Plan.

“In designing a blueprint for Peabody’s future, we are determined to tap into some of the best local resources available to us,” Mayor Bettencourt said.  “Salem State’s Center for Economic Development and Sustainability has established a sterling reputation for its work with a number of North Shore communities.  We are very excited to have them on board as key contributors to the Master Plan project.”

Established in 2009 to serve as a think tank for area businesses and municipalities, Salem State’s Center for Economic Development and Sustainability (CEDS) serves as a central repository for research and project data on the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the North Shore region. CEDS offers a variety of services to promote economic development while advancing the educational mission of Salem State, and providing educational opportunities for its students.

“CEDS is pleased to be partnering with the city of Peabody in providing data and technical expertise as the city develops a long-term Master Plan and community vision project,” said Salem State University President Patricia Maguire Meservey.  “I am confident that the resources of the university, along with the experience and expertise of the principals working on this project, will ensure the development of a solid plan to support the goals of the city.”

In the first update of Peabody’s Master Plan in over a decade,Mayor Bettencourt has sought a more cost effective approach thanin year’s past; and one with a decidedly local flavor. Per the Mayor’s request, the City Council appropriated $30,000 to contract with CEDS while previous Master Plan consultants – based mainly in Boston, cost taxpayers upwards of $100,000.

Meanwhile, Peabody is among Salem State’s largest feeder cities with some 495 undergraduate students, 78 graduate students and over 3,000 alumni who call Peabody home.  Some of those students may play a supporting role in the CEDS / Peabody project collecting data, conducting interviews and engaging in hands on classroom learning.

“Establishing a formal relationship with Salem State University is an idea whose time has come,” said Mayor Bettencourt.  “The city and the university share strong ties which stretch back throughgenerations of students, faculty and staff.  Our work together will serve to strengthen that bond for many years to come.”

Time to save Crystal Lake: Action needed now

1 Feb

 

LakeBy Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It’s an issue that has been understandably on Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s back burner since he took office just over a year ago. There were, after all, larger, more urgent priorities to address in Year 1.

But I’m writing now to express my strong feeling that the revitalization of Crystal Lake should make it onto the Mayor’s second-year agenda.

It’s time to save this vitally important watershed, and potentially outstanding recreational area for the residents of Peabody. I live less than a quarter mile from the lake, and I’m troubled by its continuous decline each time I ride past. The current blanket of ice can’t hide what’s underneath, and once spring turns to summer, the lake will once again be a blanket of green goo that covers a shallow muddy-covered pond. Crystal Lake is dying, but it could be a gem. There are tremendous opportunities to create environmentally breathtaking resource.

I know that there is a Peabody City Council sub-committee in place to look at revitalizing the lake, but it hasn’t met since Mayor Bettencourt took office.

I know too that there’s a lot to pay for and limited tax revenue. But why can’t we put together a committee of residents, business leaders, and elected officials to start brainstorming on how we can create a public-private partnership designed to Save Crystal Lake?

Mr. Mayor, I’m in and ready to be one of those residents to work on this. I’m sure there will be plenty of other volunteers too. We just need to bring to the front burner once again.