SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 20, 2013

Scanlon highlights Beverly's progress

Mayor 'still thinking about' running for re-election

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — Mayor Bill Scanlon painted a rosy picture of the state of the city last night, saying Beverly is poised to benefit from projects ranging from a new middle school to a Brimbal Avenue interchange upgrade that could lead to thousands of jobs.

In his annual State of the City address in the nearly full City Council chambers, Scanlon made no mention of the one subject that many wondered if he would broach — whether or not he will run for re-election to see it all happen.

But he did sound excited about the future, saying that he and his team at City Hall “enjoy what we are doing and make every effort to do it well.”

“We are fully aware of the trust you have placed in us,” he said at the end of his 26-minute speech. “Rest assured that our passion to further improve our city will not wane.”

Asked afterward if he will seek re-election, Scanlon said, “I’m still thinking about it. I’m thinking about it hard.”

As he has done in past speeches, Scanlon, in his 18th year as mayor, laid out a series of projects that he said will continue to improve the quality of life in the city.

At the top of the list is the Brimbal Avenue upgrade, which Scanlon has long touted as the best way to create more tax revenue to fund the improvements the city needs.

The project, which would be conducted in two phases, would cost more than $25 million and would make several changes to the Brimbal Avenue/Route 128 area, including construction of an overpass across Route 128.

In addition to improving traffic flow and safety, Scanlon said the changes will open up property on both sides of the highway to development, increasing the city’s tax base. The entire project, he said, has the potential to create as many as 7,500 “good new jobs” in the region over a five- to 10-year period.

The project has been in discussion for years, but Scanlon said he is “very optimistic regarding near-term funding for phase one construction based on the high level of cooperation being received from multiple state agencies.”

Scanlon said the “new growth” from the Brimbal Avenue project would be enough to pay for upgraded police, fire and public services facilities and improved streets and sidewalks, which he acknowledged are the areas that the city has not adequately addressed.

He cautioned, however, that funding for the project is “not a certainty.” Without it, he said the public safety and public services projects wouldn’t get done for eight or 10 years.

As for the immediate future, Scanlon said the city will spend more than $2 million on street repairs, the most in decades. He said Gov. Deval Patrick’s latest budget includes $1.5 million for Beverly for roadway improvements, up from last year’s $1 million.

With the increased spending, “we will see the overall condition of our streets improve each year rather than continue to decline,” Scanlon said.

Scanlon said he is also optimistic that the state will begin a feasibility study this year for a new middle school. The study will determine whether the Memorial Building on Cabot Street should be upgraded and enlarged or whether an entirely new school should be built on that site, he said.

Scanlon also ticked off a variety of other plans that he said are either in the works or on the way — a 500-space MBTA parking garage near the train station; a complete reconstruction of Route 1A from the Memorial Building to the Beverly-Salem bridge; repairs to City Hall, the main library, the Lynch Park carriage house and the Beverly Golf & Tennis Club clubhouse; and two new skating rinks at Endicott College that will be made available to the Beverly community.

Scanlon said the decision to build the new high school in tough economic times is paying off. The city’s schools, he said, are now a “magnet, drawing young families to our city.”

“In recent years despite the difficult economy we have continued to progress,” he said. “Our homes have retained their value better than those in any of the nearby cities and towns.”

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.