With more than 60 percent of the City of Everett lying below sea level and surrounded by marshes and tidal rivers, flooding issues for residents in certain low-lying neighborhoods have increased over the last few decades. Only two weeks ago, when more than two inches of rain fell in a span of hours, some Everett residents experienced severe flooding similar to that of many other residents in flood-prone sections in the neighboring communities of Boston, Revere, and Chelsea.
While little can be done to stop rising sea levels attributable to climate change, Mayor Carlo DeMaria announced that Phase 3 of his infrastructure repair plan for the Malden and Island End Rivers are underway with an expected completion date of late 2022.
The mayor said the goal of the project is to alleviate, if not eliminate, the flooding that residents of Tremont St., Elton St., Valley St., Waters Ave., Bellrock St., Air Force Road, and homes around Rossetti Park have experienced for decades.
A primary reason for the almost-constant flooding in these neighborhoods is the infrastructure that was designed quite some time ago to allow 60 percent of the storm water to flow quickly from the North and South Creeks into the Island End River in Chelsea, with the remainder to go into the Mystic River and into the harbor.
DeMaria started Phase One of the project, focusing on the cleanup of the Island End River culverts that were filled with silt and debris, as well as the invasive phragmites that had brought the drainage of the river to only a weak flow. With the repair made to the culverts near the Produce Center, DeMaria and his team attacked the problems on the North Creek. Again, culverts and piping meant to direct water away from homes were clogged and ineffective at removing water.
Today, DeMaria and his staff have started the South Creek Stormwater Outfall Restoration Project. This is the last phase of the multi- year project and focuses on clearing culverts that are clogged and repairing broken storm water pipes. Fixing these problems will allow the storm water to move quickly away from the neighborhoods and into the Malden and Island End rivers.
“Our goal always has been to alleviate all flooding in these areas in typical weather events and to get pretty close when the 100-year storms hit,” said Everett Conservation Agent Thomas Philbin.
DeMaria pointed out that the failure to keep up with the maintenance of this infrastructure was just one example of what has been a decades-long problem.
Today, with a solid bond rating, DeMaria is looking at making the necessary infrastructure repairs to the city’s streets, sewers, and public buildings.
“Most of our senior debt comes from the bonds that were issued to pay for the new schools that were built 20 years ago,” DeMaria said. With this debt retired, DeMaria is looking to use the savings to fund needed projects and programs.
Moving cautiously to maintain the city’s AA+ bond rating, DeMaria keeps a tight control on the spending of tax dollars. DeMaria said he balances the priority of the order of projects, knowing that he must answer to the taxpayers and voters for any increase in the tax rate or loss of quality of life.
The mayor noted that he earmarks between $4 to $5 million in the budget for new or resurfaced streets, sidewalks, and curbing. “The Elm Street and Ferry Street project alone will cost $30 million,” he said, adding, “We received a federal grant to pay the majority of the cost for this project.”
One of the biggest areas of concerns for many communities is their underfunded pension obligations.
“When I took office, less than 40% of the city’s future pension obligations were funded,” said DeMaria. “Today more than 62% percent of all pension costs are funded. And by 2031, 100% of Everett’s pension cost will be funded, nine years ahead of the state requirement.”
Looking at new growth and better uses of existing commercial land inside Route 16 also is a priority for DeMaria.
“This is where the large commercial development will take place, not in our existing neighborhoods,” said the mayor. “These new developments have resulted, and will continue to result, in increased tax revenue.”
DeMaria also highlighted the renovated Hancock St. and Central fire stations, while looking to future projects, such as the new police station that will be ready in five years and the renovated senior center that will be completed in two years, while continuing to maintain his fiscal handle on the city’s finances that have kept the bond rating at AA+ for the past six years.
“There is a reason why Everett was named a top city to live in,” DeMaria said, adding, “We have what present and future residents are seeking now.