SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 2, 2014

Heard Around Peabody: Watch where you step

By Alan Burke
Staff Writer

---- — PEABODY — If you still haven’t gotten your 2014 calendar, it’s not too late. The Peabody Municipal Light Plant is providing them for free. They’re available in the city clerk’s office at City Hall. These calendars not only tell you what day it is but give a glimpse of what the day used to be.

Put another way, the calendar features photos from days of yore, when Peabody really was the Leather City and a traffic jam included a trolley and horse-drawn wagons. It was a simpler time. On the other hand, to paraphrase song parodist Allan Sherman (“Smog Gets In Your Eyes”):

“There was less traffic, of course,

when we all rode a horse

but there was something worse.”

Vertigo

Workers expect to complete the restoration of the City Hall roof this week. Passers-by can already see the improvement, with elegant copper molding at the top and copper features highlighting the upper-floor windows. The new roof is slate.

“It’s going to be there another 100 years,” said workman Gerber Deleon of Lynn and Stanley Roofing.

It’s a special building, agreed colleague Daniel Garcia, worthy of special care, as it’s the sort we might never see constructed again. The two did the work with a towering lift that carried them to the top of the building. Thus, there was no need for unsightly scaffolding to repair the windows.

“It’s really come out great,” said Bill Power of the Historical Commission and Historical Society. He was a prime advocate for getting this done and expressed satisfaction that it was done right, with attention to the original details that distinguished the structure when it was built in 1883.

Still to be completed is the ceiling in Wiggin Auditorium — a ceiling now free from leaks. Power is optimistic that the money is there to get the ceiling done, too. The entire project is one of several initiatives, pushed by Mayor Ted Bettencourt and passed by the City Council, that lend themselves to the upgrading of the downtown.

A little discord on Little’s Lane

That’s what Planning Board secretary Tessa Marc Aurele is expecting at the upcoming Jan. 16 meeting when the board entertains a proposal to change the zoning on Little’s Lane, a small, residential street in the downtown. Until recently, it was zoned Business Central, which relates to the downtown, according to retiring City Councilor Dave Gamache. But the zoning was changed to reflect the many residences on the street and transformed into R2, or residential two-family.

Now Nelson Gagnon, who owns a drain company on Little’s Lane, wants it changed back, believing the new zoning impacts his ability to use his property.

“But some people are really adamant about leaving it R2,” said Marc Aurele.

Ultimately, the matter goes to the City Council. The Gagnon property “is basically an island there,” Gamache said. However, if he still held a seat, he wouldn’t vote to change the zoning yet again. He thinks the owner should have adjusted to the change, which was discussed thoroughly before it was made, said Gamache. “He had enough time.”

They’ll tax anything

City Hall secretary Tessa Marc Aurele took a call on Monday from a resident complaining that “she had a problem with her exercise tax.”

Door-to-door Christmas

The Health Department was triumphant, taking this year’s City Hall competition for the best-decorated Christmas door. Or is it a holiday door? If it is, New Year’s wasn’t included, because the winning entry was dismantled before the New Year even arrived. Nevertheless, the News has captured a few of the finer efforts.

“Ours should have won,” joked Laurie Duff in Collections. Snoopy and his doghouse, however, came in second.

Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.