SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 4, 2014

Scanlon: Help make Beverly better: Vote 'yes'

Bill Scanlon
The Salem News

---- — The upcoming vote on the rezoning of a small parcel of land necessary to allow significant traffic safety improvements at the Brimbal Avenue/Route 128 interchange to proceed is very important.

To understand why these improvements, to be funded by a $5 million grant recently awarded to the city of Beverly, are so important, one needs to look back at least two decades into Beverly’s history.

During the 1980s and into the early 1990s Beverly was governed as a bedroom community with no emphasis on economic development and job creation. There was no emphasis on creating the revenue needed to upgrade city services and infrastructure. That experiment ended with a massive deficit of more than $8 million, schools in disrepair, a junk bond rating and a city nearly in receivership.

A great many of you have located in Beverly since that time and do not know firsthand how bad it was back in 1993. It has certainly gotten better, a whole lot better and a key reason is that Beverly has accommodated appropriate new growth. New growth, as you may know, is the translation of building permits into construction and then into new tax dollars. Without that new growth averaging more than $1 million annually over now nearly two decades, the major improvements we have jointly made to our schools, our parks, to flood control and our quality of life would have been impossible.

During this period, while appropriate new growth has been welcomed, we have been very careful not to add even one square inch to the land set aside for business within the city. Years ago one acre in every seven within our city was zoned for the combination of industry and commerce. Of that entire land mass set aside for business, fully one-third of it is the property on both sides of Brimbal Avenue in the nearly one-half mile stretch along which there is not a single home.

While Beverly is better today there are still many needed infrastructure improvements. We still need a new middle school, new public safety facilities, improved public service facilities and better paved roads. To make these needs become reality, we must use our land zoned for business productively and effectively, thus providing the city with adequate financial resources.

The truth is that the Exit 19 interchange on Route 128 at Brimbal Avenue is a nightmare. There is very likely no other interchange in the entire world quite like it. It is unsafe and causes great delays wasting time and fuel while polluting the environment.

After years of unsuccessful effort because transportation improvement funds were simply not available, no matter how desirable the project, I led the effort to finance the needed upgrade using economic development funding. Only weeks ago these efforts were finally rewarded with a $5 million grant (not a loan, an outright grant) to construct the roadway improvements needed to upgrade the interchange, to make it safer, to make traffic move through the area faster and more effectively.

These changes will help everyone in Beverly by generating new growth and new tax dollars. We need to do what is best for Beverly to keep it on the path to becoming the most desirable city in Massachusetts in which to live. Think about Beverly as a whole and its need for continued appropriate new growth and vote “Yes” on Feb. 8. It is important to your future, your children’s future and their children’s future. Thank you.

Bill Scanlon recently retired after 18 years as mayor of Beverly.