Methuen City Council to go back to in-person meetings May 3

Bill Kirk, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
·3 min read

Apr. 22—METHUEN — The City Council voted this week to join several other deliberative bodies in the area and return to in-person meetings.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the council has been conducting its meetings over Zoom, a software program that allows for video meetings.

Tuesday night, the council voted 8-0 to return to the Great Hall in the Searles Building. City Councilor Mike Simard was absent.

"We will return to in-person at the next meeting," declared Council Chairman Steve Saba. "Unless there's a development and City Hall is closed."

He noted, "This is our last Zoom meeting. We should all be excited to go back to in-person."

In March, when the subject came up, Saba was opposed to returning to City Hall. He said that the air quality in the Searles Building was poor and that City Hall was a hotspot for COVID-19.

Other councilors and Mayor Neil Perry challenged him on that notion, saying that the city spent $1.4 million to improve ventilation in the historic structure and that just four employees out of 100 had contracted the virus.

In other business, the City Council's Finance Committee was designated Tuesday night as the subcommittee that would review how millions in federal relief act money can be spent.

The council voted 8-0 in favor of a resolution that originally called for a new subcommittee that would review how the city can use the money contained in the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA. President Joe Biden and Congress approved a package valued at almost $2 trillion to provide relief to cities and towns across the country affected by COVID-19.

Saba, along with councilors Jessica Finocchiaro and Mike Simard, had originally proposed creating the special subcommittee "to establish guidelines and policies for the disbursement of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021."

But some councilors took umbrage to the idea, saying that kind of work should be done by the Finance Committee instead. They proposed the amendment tasking the Finance Committee with the oversight of the ARPA money.

"All three of us decided to support it, even though we disagreed. We cared more about getting oversight than who is on the committee," Finocchiaro said.

The Finance Committee is comprised of D.J. Beauregard, James McCarty and Eunice Zeigler.

The group has until June 3 to return to the full council with a report.

Also at the meeting, the City Council approved a resolution authorizing police to post "no parking" signs along Old Ferry Road.

Police Capt. Kevin Mahoney testified at a previous meeting that the configuration of the road along with heavy truck traffic and the prospect of a new development all created unsafe conditions for on-street parking.

Mahoney was asked by City Councilor Jessica Finocchiaro if the city had asked how residents who live on the road felt about the change.

"We received complaints from one business, we witnessed tapes, and through officer observation we determined it was a hazard," he said. "It's definitely not safe to allow parking. This is a necessary evil whether the residents want it or not."

Old Ferry Road runs north from Pleasant Valley Street and ends in a dead-end.