GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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May 23, 2013

Fort work on hold for a year

City concedes issue is beyond hotel appeals

A shovel was supposed to strike the ground this spring for a series of upgrades to the Fort neighborhood’s water and sewer infrastructure.

But that major construction project, now with an increased price tag, will be delayed for at least another year, city officials now say — and not just because of appeals being filed regarding the planned Beauport Gloucester hotel project.

In a memorandum to city councilors this week, the mayor’s office will announce intentions to put off the infrastructure work until at least next spring, consequently letting go of the $3 million MassWorks grant for the major infrastructure replacement. The state had required that the hotel project break ground by the end of spring in order to receive the grant, which is also contingent on the 150 jobs that the Beauport Hotel was projected to create.

Though city officials had urged opponents not to appeal the hotel project — saying that appeals would put the MassWorks grant at risk — the city itself has yet to put out a contract for construction bids on the infrastructure project. And Mayor Carolyn Kirk’s office delayed a request for the City Council to authorize bond money for the project three weeks ago, before any appeals rolled in, according to the mayor’s Chief Administrative Officer Jim Duggan.

“It was coming to light a little quicker that potentially it’s probably in the best interest of the project, of the neighborhood, of the businesses down there, that we postpone this until next spring,” Duggan said Wednesday.

Attorney Michael Faherty — whose client, Mortillaro’s Lobster Co., has filed an appeal against the Conservation Commission’s finding to approve the hotel proposal — said Wednesday that he knew the city had not been prepared to break ground on the project and had been surprised when city officials, including both the mayor and Councilor-at-large Bruce Tobey, wagged their fingers at any potential appeals.

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