SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 18, 2013

Peabody mayor proposes $5.1 million bond for field, pond and Fire Department

BY ALAN BURKE
STAFF WRITER

---- — PEABODY — In this city it’s the stuff that dreams are made of, things city officials have been longing for going back, in some cases, more than 40 years.

Installation of a turf football field. Weed clogged Crystal Lake restored to a family fun area. New, modern pumper and equipment purchased for the Fire Department. Yet, Mayor Ted Bettencourt outlined a way to provide all this and more at last night’s meeting of the City Council Finance Subcommittee. And his plan easily won approval from the five members.

It will cost an estimated $7.6 million, the mayor explained, with enough money available from local sources to reduce the bond request to $5.1 million. The spending will have an impact on the tax rate, said Finance Director Patty Schaffer, but she wasn’t able yet to give any figures on that.

“In total,” said committee Chairman Dave Gravel, “if you look at all these programs, they tell people Peabody is on the move. We’re investing in ourselves.” That perception, he added, is likely to attract the sort of businesses that helps the city to thrive.

Fire Chief Steve Pasdon, with a supportive contingent of his firefighters looking on, made a case for the purchase of a new pumper truck along with updated equipment designed to help his people breathe inside of burning buildings. The pumper would replace a truck that was purchased in 1989, and no longer certified for use, he said. “It’s Engine 1. The workhorse.”

The self-contained breathing apparatus uses vital visor readouts to tell firefighters how much air they have. “We are replacing 53 units that were purchased in 1997,” he said. Currently, he said, no department on the North Shore is so out of date.

“You’re using 17-year-old equipment,” Gravel told Pasdon. “I hope we never get in that position again.”

The mayor’s plans for the long-sought dredging of Crystal Lake in West Peabody call for clearing away brush and trees as well, along with the installation of a gazebo, boat docks for paddle boats “or swan boats,” and, perhaps, a fountain at the center of the pond. “But really this is a project about dredging,” he said. “The weeds are clogging the life out of the pond.”

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Councilor Barry Sinewitz. “So many people want to get on board and help.”

“I do think the most exciting part of this bond is Crystal Lake,” added Councilor Jim Liacos.

Bettencourt cited more than $600,000 from a fund won by the late state Rep. Joyce Spiliotis as offsetting some of the cost, along with contributions from the Community Preservation Commission and the Peabody Municipal Light Plant — the latter two contributing to other projects as well.

Citing the importance of sports in Peabody, Bettencourt made a strong pitch for the turf field, noting that the natural grass football field now at the high school can only be used 15 times a year. He compared that with the possibility of playing on a turf field up to 200 times a year. If it happens, he pointed out, wear and tear on all the other fields will be reduced.

A turf field could be used for more than football, Bettencourt pointed out. “We should have football, soccer, lacrosse ... on our marquee field.” Lights would be included in the bond package.

Other items included in the bond include repairs and computers at the police station, a John Deere tractor for the Public Services Department, computer equipment for the city clerk, the removal of sludge from Winona Pond, aid for the Torigian Center day care, a modern sound system for City Hall’s Wiggin Auditorium and new cafeteria tables for the schools.

“I just wanted to get a vote of support,” the mayor said. The issue will now go before the full council.