Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

Peabody water rates may be on the rise


PEABODY — Residents could see a hike in water and sewer rates, as well as a voluntary water ban, in coming months.

Both proposals are, in part, a result of a March fire at the Coolidge Avenue Water Treatment plant that has seen the city paying out to use water from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA).

“Right now, because of the fire and emergency we had, we are dependent on MWRA water until we get the water treatment plant up and operational again,” said Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. “We should have the temporary plant operational by October, and that will allow us to go back to our own water supply.”

By the time the plant is operational again, Bettencourt said the city could owe the MWRA up to $2.2 million. Insurance will cover about $1 million of that cost, the mayor said.

At this week’s City Council finance committee meeting, councilors will consider a 10 percent increase in water and sewer rates being proposed by the mayor.

Several councilors have said they would rather see the city use money from its stabilization fund (sometimes known as the rainy day account) to cover the additional MWRA costs rather than raising water and sewer rates.

“When we talk about a rainy day, this is a rainy,” said Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz. “We had a fire; it was a disaster and we might need $1 million to $1.2 million. That is where we should go to free cash. It’s going to be a huge bill to absorb.”

The mayor said city officials wrestled with whether to go with a rate increase or use the stabilization fund.

“I felt that it was best we went forward with the water and sewer rates because people have more control over that,” said Bettencourt. “I thought it might be more attractive to residents that they have a little more control of the water.”

In addition to a rate increase, It’s also likely there will be a voluntary water ban declared by July 1, according to the mayor.

“Certainly, spring has had a significant amount of rain and we are not near where we were last year … when we did have a mandatory water ban,” said Bettencourt. “There will be a voluntary water ban coming (to) try to curb some of the costs coming from the MWRA. July and August are the (busiest) months for water usage.”

Saugus to give streets a facelift


SAUGUS Town Meeting members zipped through most of the warrant on Monday with little to no discussion.

Town Meeting members voted to raise and appropriate $642,035 for street resurfacing, handicapped ramps and sidewalks, which will be reimbursed by the state under Chapter 90.

Town Meeting also authorized the treasurer, with the Board of Selectmen, to borrow $662,100 at 0 percent interest from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Local Pipeline Assistance Program for designing and constructing improvements to the water pipelines.

Members voted to appropriate $224,212 from the premium paid to the town upon the sale of bonds issued to repair the Belmonte Middle School, which is the subject of a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion, to pay costs of the project being financed by such bonds and to reduce the amount authorized to be borrowed for the project, but not yet issued by the town, by the same amount.

An article requesting that Town Meeting vote to create a study committee that would evaluate benefits and costs associated with Saugus Public Schools providing free, all-day kindergarten was referred back to the School Committee.

Nowicki a circular sensation for St. Mary’s

A revolving fund was reauthorized for supporting recreational programs for the community. Revolving funds were also reauthorized to support the water system cross-connection program, programs and activities at the Senior Center, the Senior Lunch Program at the Senior Center, and the Town of Saugus Compost Program.

The only debate was centered around whether a nonbinding resolution, not listed on the warrant, should be read and voted on. Town Meeting members were torn on whether the resolution, made by another member, Albert DiNardo, should be read.

Ultimately, a vote allowed the resolution to be read by DiNardo, which says that the cost of health insurance for Saugus employees and retirees is increasing at a double digit percentage rate.

“The projected FY18 cost of health insurance for Saugus is $13.3 million of an approximately $90 million Saugus annual budget,” the resolution reads. “Let it be resolved that the Saugus Finance Committee provide the Saugus Town Meeting with an analysis of past health care costs, trends, and provide a three- to five-year future forecast of costs and report back to the Town Meeting.”

The resolution passed after a roll call vote.

Town Meeting will reconvene on Monday, May 22, to take up the rest of the articles on the warrant.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Federal loan paves way for Malden streets

BOSTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Tuesday announced it is approving a $2.4 million loan guarantee to Malden to help the city fix roads damaged by water main replacement work.

After determining 39 percent of its water mains were 100 years old or older, Malden in 2011 began replacing mains. With miles of streets in need of repairs following the pipe work, Malden launched a road reconstruction project and turned to HUD for help.

“This loan guarantee is one of the most successful investment tools that HUD offers to local governments to help strengthen their communities,” said Kristine Foye, HUD New England Deputy Regional Administrator.

HUD’s Section 108 Loan Guarantee Assistance Program enables local governments to borrow money at reduced interest rates to promote economic development, stimulate job growth and improve public facilities.

Lynn has designs on its future

Such public investment is often needed to inspire private contributions; to provide seed money or to simply boost confidence private firms and individuals may need to invest in distressed areas.

In addition to main replacements, the city works with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority to sample water for lead levels twice annually. Fifteen homes were picked for samples in 2016 and tests found water tested was in excess above a defined “action level.”

According to a statement released by the city and available on its website, testing results exceeding the action level did not mean there is lead in Malden’s water distribution system.

The statement said some homes with lead piping and fixtures can register high levels on test results. The city tests drinking water for free and residents with lead pipes can contact the city Engineering Department at 781-397-7040 to schedule a test for lead or fill out a request online at and select “Water – Lead Service Inspection” as your request category.

The 6 ‘alternative facts’ of school no-voters


I write as president of the Lynn City Council and for the councilors-at-large. We cannot in good conscience sit by and allow the negative, defamatory statements, distortions and outright lies from the “vote no on two new schools” team go unanswered.  

The negativity and outright venom spewed by the opposition shocks the values that we hold true in our hearts. We are utterly disgusted to read social media posts stating that “those children” from foreign countries who speak with accents do not deserve a quality education.  

The anger and nastiness of this campaign by the “vote no” supporters makes the recent presidential election look like a hug fest.

We as Lynners have a unique opportunity to literally change the lives of more than 100,000 of our children for the next century. It is ironic that the residents of Ward 1 who pay some of the highest property taxes in the city are forced to send their children to a crumbling building that does not meet the educational needs of the 21st century.  

Not so long ago, a former Marblehead state representative told his constituents they should support strong state school funding for Lynn. Swampscott raises captains of industry, he said, who “need very well educated employees.”

As Lynners, we find that statement and such a sentiment to be a slap in the face.  We sincerely hope that no Lynner believes that we should be looked down upon by any other community.  

We are proud to be from Lynn and want nothing but the very best for our families and children.  

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

The irony is not lost on us collectively that Swampscott educational leaders have toured the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School and intend to model future construction in their town on this project that was finished on time and under budget. The proposed schools in large part will be modeled after Marshall and the West Lynn site will be almost identical.

“Alternative fact No. 1” put forth by the opposition claims that Lynn can simply go back to the drawing board and select a new site. This is just not true. Lynn has spent almost $1.1 million on architectural drawings, traffic studies, sewer studies and wetland/drinking supply protection studies. There is no more money to funnel into additional studies and plans.  

The plain fact of the matter is that the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) has insisted that one of the schools be located in the East Lynn District. There are no other sites in East Lynn that exist that are financially or environmentally feasible.  

The Magnolia Avenue site is not a viable option. That  land is located in a flood zone. There is an existing Massachusetts Water Resources Authority pipe that runs underneath the playground that supplies water to the citizens from Swampscott and Marblehead.  The site is not large enough to accommodate a 600-plus student facility without taking by eminent domain a portion of the neighboring elderly apartment complex. Such a taking would result in dozens of elderly persons being relocated to new homes.

If the citizens of Lynn reject the two modern state-of-the-art educational facilities, Lynn will go to the end of the line and be forced to submit a new application. Exploding enrollment projects show that by 2021, Lynn will have either double sessions or classrooms with 50 children.  In all likelihood, Lynn would not get back to the front of the line at the MSBA until 2019 or 2020.  

This ensures double sessions or students crammed into classrooms like sardines. But even this ignores the fact that there are no other viable sites in East Lynn. Therefore, it makes no sense to re-apply. Lynn will just dump good money after bad fixing up a Pickering Middle School that can never be adequately rebuilt for today’s middle school educational needs.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

“Alternative Fact No. 2” as put forth by the opposition states Lynn will be taking multiple homes at the reservoir site. This is just not true. Lynn heard the voices of the opposition and redrew the plans so that only one home will be taken by eminent domain.  

The wonderful woman who was the subject of news coverage several months ago will not lose her home. The younger woman who would be required to relocate has and will continue to be offered every reasonable accommodation. The Lynn City Council has gone on record supporting the idea of moving her home several hundred yards down the road so that she can remain in the home she built.

Opponents ignore the fact that two homes were taken by eminent domain in order to construct Thurgood Marshall. Those relocated for Marshall were residents of Ward 3 and we know for a fact that they were extremely satisfied with the efforts Lynn undertook to relocate them to a new home of their choosing.  

“Alternative fact No. 3” put forth by the opposition states that the cost of the school project will be $5,000 per taxpayer. This figure will be spread out over 25 years. In return, Lynners will see their property values soar. Think about it: Residents with children looking to buy property will not want to buy in Lynn if our schools are an embarrassment. We urge Lynners to take a tour of the existing Pickering.

Quite simply, the physical condition of Pickering is an embarrassment.

The more families are satisfied with the conditions of our schools, the greater the demand will be for our own homes. Our greatest assets are our homes. With the construction of two new schools, our homes will go up in value considerably.  By approving these two new schools, we have just increased our own net worth by tens of thousands of dollars almost immediately.  

“Alternative fact No. 4” put forth by the opposition states that the property is part of Lynn Woods. This outright fabrication can simply be rebutted by the fact that the Friends of Lynn Woods have publicly said that the land is not part of the Lynn Woods Reservation.

“Alternative fact No. 5” put forth by the opposition states that the land is cemetery land. The deeds for the subject land clearly state that the City of Lynn owns this land with no restrictions. An attorney for the “vote no” group has conceded at a public hearing before the Lynn City Council that the deeds on file at the Registry of Deeds contain no restrictions requiring this land to be used for cemetery purposes.

Conversely, the Lynn City Council is on record as supporting the sale of 32 acres to the Pine Grove Cemetery and said deed will state the land will be used solely for cemetery purposes.  Because there exists no deed restrictions or conditions on file at the Registry of Deeds, the Lynn City Council would be free to sell this land to a developer to construct hundreds of new homes.

The Lynn City Council did not seek such a solution. Rather, it unanimously voted to commence the process to transfer this land to the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission at no cost.

“Alternative fact No. 6” put forth by the opposition states that the selection of these sites was done behind closed doors with no public input. All meetings of the Pickering Site Committee have been open to the public.  Three public forums were held where our community could speak up on the proposed sites.

Members of the Lynn City Council have personally met and spoke with the leader of the opposition on almost a dozen occasions. Our city council colleagues have attempted to address or mitigate each and every one of their stated concerns.  

Now is the time for us as a community to step up.  The negativity and anger is unacceptable. We are supporting the two new schools because our only interest is the children of Lynn.  

Our fellow Lynners: Let’s vote yes on two new schools so that our children will have the necessary tools to be captains of industry for generations to come.  

Editor’s note: City Council President Darren P. Cyr wrote this editorial and signed it with fellow councilors Buzzy Barton, Council Vice President, and Councilors-at-large Daniel F. Cahill, Brian P. LaPierre and Hong L. Net.


Mayor stands ground on school sites

Pickering Middle School (Item file photo)

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — The city’s School Building Committee overwhelmingly approved construction of two schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

Under the $183 million proposal, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The Friday morning vote reaffirmed the decision made by the committee in August. It came in the wake of questions raised about the Parkland Avenue site earlier this week. City attorney James Lamanna said the law department became aware of documents from 1893 last week suggesting the land belongs to Pine Grove Cemetery.

Ward 5 City Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, whose district includes the proposed site, was the sole vote against the project Friday. Prior to the roll call, she spoke against the plan while Pine Hill residents looked on.

Resident Brian Field said the land that the city plans to use for the school on Parkland Avenue was intended to be a cemetery.  

But Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services Department chief who is also a member of the building committee, told the panel the plan is the best option for the city.

“No matter where you put a public facility, no one wants it,” he said. “What is best for the city may not be the best for one section of the city.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy acknowledged that the committee is faced with a series of bad options. She said a proposal to build the school on Magnolia Avenue near Pickering  has its own set of problems.

While officials have said it would cost taxpayers $800,000 to move the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority pipe on the property to make way for the school, the mayor said it would probably cost much more.

“I suspect that the pipe is not in good condition, it’s been down there a long time and soil conditions are not optimal for its preservation,” she said. “I’m afraid when we begin our obligation to reroute the water to Swampscott and Marblehead, we will find it to be far more expensive and time-consuming than we’re thinking of right now.”

In addition, she said a new school in that section of the city would exacerbate traffic problems in an already congested area. She also noted that the Gallagher Park option won’t work because it would be a tight fit in a heavily populated neighborhood.  

Next week, the building committee will make its case to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the quasi-independent government that funds public schools. If approved, the agency would contribute $114.5 million towards the two schools or 62.5 percent of the cost.

If approved by the MSBA and taxpayers, it would add $163 annually to the real estate tax bill for 25 years.  

Thomas Grillo can be reached at

Pine Hill stuck in the middle

Pickering Middle School (Item file photo)

By Adam Swift


LYNN — Residents in the Pine Hill neighborhood are firmly against building a new school near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue, as well as a second potential site at Gallagher Park.

Nearly 100 members of the Pine Hill Civic Association and assorted concerned neighbors met at the Hibernian Hall Thursday night to discuss the evolving nature of plans to replace the deteriorating Pickering Middle School on Conomo Avenue.

“This is our little slice of paradise living in Pine Hill,” said neighborhood resident Don Castle. “We don’t want anyone changing or disrupting our neighborhood with a big school.”

While the residents, as well as three city councilors who attended the meeting, are firmly against the building of a new middle school at either the Parkland Avenue or Gallagher sites, the whole issue could be a moot point by late this morning.

The Pickering Middle School Building Committee is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. this morning, with discussion centered on the Parkland site.

The building committee was set to focus on legal documents identified by the city law department tracing historic ownership of land proposed for the school construction.

In August, the building committee approved constructing two middle schools to replace Pickering. One school would house 652 students at the Parkland site, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), which would fund a portion of the project, has to approve the potential middle school sites.

City attorney James Lamanna said the law department became aware of documents from 1893 last week suggesting that the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission obtained a loan and purchased the land where the new school could be constructed.

Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano and Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre all reiterated on Thursday night that they are against seeing a new school built at either the Parkland or Gallagher locations.

Castle also brought forward the possibility of a taxpayer initiative legal action against the city to intercede against the taking of the Parkland Avenue land, if that option does move forward.

“I thought Parkland Avenue was off the table, and that’s a move in the right direction,” said LaPierre. “I want a new middle school, and it would be great to have two new middle schools.”

LaPierre said he wants to see a new school at McManus Field, and possibly a smaller school on Magnolia Avenue near the current Pickering School.

A drawback to the Magnolia site is that there is a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority pipe located on the property that provides water to Swampscott and Marblehead. Relocating the pipe could cost as much as $800,000, according to city officials.

Adam Swift can be reached at

Lynn middle-school plan under further review

Pickering Middle School (Item file photo)

By Gayla Cawley

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy will call a meeting to discuss legal questions that have arisen regarding a proposed middle school off Parkland Avenue.

The meeting will focus in part on legal documents identified by the city law department tracing historic ownership of land proposed for the school construction.

In August, a city building committee approved constructing two middle schools to replace Pickering, located on Conomo Avenue. One school would house 652 students near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority has to approve the potential Pickering sites.

“I am in receipt of a letter from the Law Department that warrants the re-examination of the selection of the site off of Parkland Avenue for a new middle school,” Kennedy said in a statement Tuesday. “While the city attorneys expressed an opinion that the city can legally construct a school on this property, they did so with the admonition that potential litigation could delay the project by at least two years. In response to the communication, I will be convening a meeting of the Pickering Building Committee as soon as possible to present this new information and engage the committee in a thoughtful discussion about how we should proceed.”

City attorney James Lamanna said the law department became aware of documents from 1893 last week.

In a letter to the mayor, city Solicitor Michael Barry said the documents suggest that in 1893, the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission obtained a loan and purchased the land where the proposed Pickering Middle School would potentially be constructed on the Reservoir site. He said the documents have not been filed at the Essex County Registry of Deeds, but appear in an 1893 report of the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission to the mayor and City Council.

Kennedy, who was not available for an interview Tuesday, said in her statement that she was aware that the building committee selected the Parkland Avenue site after a “lengthy and thorough process that weighed the pros and cons of all realistic options.”

“As mayor, I have been consistently reluctant to sign onto policies and rulings that would likely be overturned in court. In this instance, the issue of time is of major consideration,” she said in the statement. “It is not my preference to have this project delayed by any significant period of time. We have more than 3,100 students in middle school this year and that number is projected to rise by as much as 25 percent in the next several years. The simple fact is that we need the amount and caliber of space suitable to meet their educational needs.

“It is no secret that the city is land-poor when it comes to the amount of area needed to construct new schools,” Kennedy continued. “I have an obligation to bring the information from the law department to the committee and allow it to reconsider the selection of the site. I would stress that this action should not be construed as my advocating the elimination of the Parkland Avenue site from consideration.

“I simply want to present the building committee with the pertinent information, consult with the experts who have already done extensive research and fact-finding, and work toward making a decision that will best serve the students and educators who deserve quality space in which to teach and learn,” she said.

Another site the committee has looked at is Magnolia Avenue near the current Pickering site.

A drawback to the Magnolia site, Lamanna said, is that there is a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) pipe located on the property that provides water to Swampscott and Marblehead. He said the pipe would have to be relocated, as the school could not be built on top of it. Moving the pipe could cost the city $500,000 to $800,000, he added, and said that the city can’t take any action that would interfere with water provided to another community.

School Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham said she was aware of the impending Pickering Building Committee meeting.

“I feel confident that the building committee will continue to work very hard to analyze all the data it has available in order to come to the best solution possible,” Latham said in an email.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.


Water emergency declared in Peabody


PEABODY — A water emergency was declared on Tuesday due to the summer’s prolonged drought.

The high water usage has caused low water pressure in some neighborhoods and the city’s drinking reservoirs are down, according to Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr.

Peabody officials are working with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority for a temporary emergency connection through the Lynnfield Water District to provide additional potable water to the city.

Under the mandatory water restriction, officials are asking residents to conserve H2O by watering their lawns every other day by sprinkler or hose. Houses on the odd numbered side of streets may water lawns on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only from 6 to 9 a.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Residents on the even numbered side of streets may water their lawns during those hours on Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Hand watering by pail or water cans is allowed at any time. But hoses may only be used during scheduled times.

Cars may only be washed during scheduled times, no Sunday watering is allowed and hydrants will not be flushed.

If the drought continues or worsens, Bettencourt said additional water restrictions may be put in place.

Adam Swift can be reached at

Time for some water planning in Saugus

Water, water everywhere – or that seems to be the focus of this year’s Saugus Town Meeting.

Voters took an initial stab two weeks ago at the warrant and they are back tonight for more debate with water a major topic for discussion.

The proposals listed on the warrant presented on May 2 included money for the Water Enterprise Fund and another article asking to reauthorize a revolving fund for the water system cross-connection program.

Another article proposed a water rate increase with the money dedicated for water-related expenses.  There’s also a plan to borrow money that would improve the town’s water pipeline network.

Other articles address repairs to town pump stations and storm drains. And don’t forget Article 32 – the $1 million idea that would remove a 30-inch drain to end Elm and Saville street flooding.

All this talk of water makes the heads swim. But it also begs an important question: Is Saugus sufficiently updated when it comes to looking at short and long-term water and sewer needs?

No problem has a more immediate, potentially widespread impact on a community than a catastrophic water system failure. Proof of this statement lies in Flint, Michigan where a breakdown in the system led to contamination and a national focus on mistakes and neglect.

Saugus is no Flint, and improvements made to the pipe network crisscrossing Route 1 is evidence town officials and legislators are addressing the town’s needs. But a Town Meeting warrant that includes a $1 million proposal for flood relief, as well as numerous water system repair proposals calls to question the need for a comprehensive look at one of Saugus’ basic infrastructure needs.

Is there anyone who can stand up at Town Meeting and definitively outline the town’s two-year, five-year and 10-year plan for upgrading replacing water systems? When is the last time town officials asked the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority or another qualified source to provide expertise in assessing town water needs?

Any plan to improve water service in Saugus and provide flood relief will translate into a significant expense. Without a detailed plan on the horizon, residents risk getting blindsided with emergency expenses.

The same planning that went into raising the town’s now-substantial reserve fund should be applied to designing and prioritizing a town water improvement plan. It would be a shame to see poor or no planning wash carefully-saved money down the drain.

Water and Sewer needs to map out CSO solution

Nick Costantino of the Lynn Water & Sewer Commission clears dirt away from a 60 to 80 year old service box in front of 19 Tucker Street in Lynn.

It’s great news for ratepayers that the Lynn Water & Sewer Commission (LWSC) is planning to hold the line on increasing bills this year.

A family of four pays $1,000 for water and sewer service, making Lynn less expensive than the amount paid by ratepayers in Massachusetts Water Resources Authority communities.

But before everyone turns the tap and lifts a glass to salute everyone in LWSC headquarters on Parkland Avenue, it might be a good idea to look to the horizon where the specter of combined sewer overflow costs continue to trouble the commission.

For more than 20 years, the commission has run hot and cold on the need to eliminate partially treated wastewater discharges into the ocean. In the 1990s, millions were spent on burying a pipe network under our streets designed to reduce the amount of rainwater surging through the sewerage system and overwhelming the Commercial Street treatment complex with wastewater.

In 2004, the commission fired contractor USFilter Corp. and entered into a 10-year period of inactivity regarding combined sewer overflow (CSO). In 2013, commissioners started paying attention again to the overflow problem with various arguments for and against the necessity for more CSO work.

One argument insisted the real problem is unresolved West Lynn flooding, especially around Bennett Street. Another argument centered on concerns about federal environmental officials taking a close look at Lynn CSO efforts and concluding that the city must further reduce, even end ocean discharges.

At stake in these arguments is the scope of CSO. In other words, how much of the ratepayers’ money must be spent on solving the problem? Before he left the commission, Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi argued that a small-scale project could solve the problem. But the latest number to circulate for a CSO solution is $130 million.

That’s a big number and how it translates into rate increases remains to be seen. A big factor in cost could be the federal timetable for reducing or ending ocean discharges. The commissioners, including two councilors and three mayoral appointees, must work with top LWSC executives to get a definitive answer from federal officials and determine the best way to fix the problem.

Once they have the answers, the commissioners should hold a hearing in City Hall and give the public a clear and informative look at how much the CSO solution will cost and detail any remedial project. It’s time to come up with a solution.