Polito: Plan to fix potholes in the works

BOSTON (STATE HOUSE) – The Baker administration is devising a plan to help cities and towns fill the plethora of potholes caused by severe winter weather, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said Tuesday.

While visiting municipal officials in three North Shore communities, Polito said a pothole plan is in the works, but did not offer specifics.

Friday is the first day of spring and cities and towns are looking to move past snow management and get into road fixes and trash cleanup.

Last week Gov. Charlie Baker filed legislation seeking an annual Chapter 90 program authorization to borrow $200 million for pay for local road and bridge repairs.

Baker will seek additional money to fix potholes, according to Polito.

“Everyone knows this has been an incredibly difficult winter. And now that the snow is melting, the aftermath is evident in many potholes and infrastructure failures on our roads throughout the Commonwealth,” Polito told the News Service. “We’ve heard from a lot of municipal leaders about how they can address potholes, and we’re looking into how we might be able to address those through the current fiscal year.”

Polito said the Baker administration asked the Legislature to act quickly on the annual borrowing authorization for road and bridge repairs, known as Chapter 90 funds.

A Baker spokeswoman said she could not provide any additional details about a plan for pothole funding, adding it is something Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack is working on.

Polito on Tuesday met with municipal officials in Amesbury, Newburyport and Beverly, talking about the aftermath of winter storms, funding for road and bridge projects, and economic development. The lieutenant governor has been charged with improving communication with municipal officials and is touring the state to meet with them.

Polito spoke with mayors Tuesday about Chapter 90 funding for road and bridge repairs.

Last year, the Legislature authorized a record $300 million for road repairs, but former Gov. Deval Patrick released only $200 million, saying the resources were needed to finance other infrastructure projects. Baker released the additional $100 million in Chapter 90 funds on his first day in office.

“Every municipal leader has expressed appreciation for release of those funds, and has plans to upgrade the roads in their communities. We know that those dollars will be stretched and used wisely,” Polito said after meeting with Amesbury officials.

Amesbury Mayor Kenneth Gray said talked with Polito about boosting business development to lower the city’s tax rate, which is the fourth highest in the state at $20.54 per $1,000 of assessed value. Amesbury officials are trying to develop a 50 acre-parcel of land known as the “Golden Triangle,” where Rte. 95 and Rte. 495 intersect.

“They are very sensitive to the need to broaden our tax base,” Gray said, referring to the Baker administration.

Gray said the city needs help navigating through the different agencies that sign off on approvals.

Polito said state government can do a better job making sure projects, like the one in Amesbury, come to fruition.

“For a place like Amesbury that means increasing their commercial industrial tax base, which would help the overall community and be lesser of a burden on the residential working families who really pay a lot in this community,” she said.

Rep. James Kelcourse, a freshman Republican from Amesbury, said lowering the tax rate in the city has been a focus for municipal officials for many years.

“Thirteen percent of our taxes are derived from commercial and industrial, and the rest is derived from residential. So it is really on the backs of the residential to pay for the services here in town, such as schools,” Kelcourse said.

Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport) said Polito’s office wants to be a hub for municipal leaders, and “because she has a background as a former legislator, she totally gets the work that Rep. Kelcourse and I to do in our role there.”

Copyright 2015 State House News Service

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