State again rejects Methuen’s use of some COVID money
A second attempt by city officials to appeal the alleged misuse of $650,000 in CARES Act funding has failed, and the state may decide the money needs to be returned.
After receiving $4 million in federal COVID-19 aid, Mayor Neil Perry was given a deadline of Dec. 31, 2020, to allocate the money. Records showed that 346 city employees received stipends of up to $1,500. Those employees include the human resources director, director of public works, and police and firefighters.
The city was later questioned about $150,000 given to restaurants and $500,000 in COVID-19 hazard pay issued to essential employees shortly before the holidays last year.
Saga ends for Methuen Police Department
Four years of tension between the city and Police Department came to an end after the City Council voted unanimously to accept a $1.5 million collective bargaining agreement with the Superior Officers Association.
The agreement was divided into three contracts representing fiscal 2018-2020, fiscal 2021 and fiscal 2022-2024.
“The project was a complete rebuilding and restructuring of our labor agreement,” said union President Sgt. James Moore. “We’ve overcome tremendous obstacles to get to this point.”
The union also agreed to pay the city $705,000 in reimbursement for outside legal counsel.
Days Inn once again being used as a homeless refuge
The homeless shelter at the Days Inn on Pelham Street was re-opened by the state Department of Housing and Community Development. City officials, however, were upset that they weren’t informed.
In the spring of 2020, the DHCD opened a shelter at the hotel for homeless individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the following months, the number of police responses to the Days Inn escalated by 40% and the shelter was closed July 1, 2021.
Mayor Neil Perry said that on Oct. 14, he was informed that 55 Haitian immigrant families had been moved from Boston Medical Center to the Days Inn.
“I couldn’t believe my ears,” the mayor said. “DHCD made the decision to move them into the city without so much as a courtesy phone call. This is the second time the state has done this to Methuen.”
— Christopher Roberson