Essex Notebook


It was a jam-packed meeting of the Essex Division of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday morning at the Windward Grille.  This quiet, quarterly event always “delivers” because it brings together local government officials with local businesses, interested residents, public safety officials and Chamber executives.  Michele French, manager of BankGloucester’s Essex branch serves as “agenda keeper”.  Here’s a topline summary of what we learned.

  • The evening drive through Essex might be a bit lighter, said Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki, after the recent upgrade of nearly all streetlights to new LED fixtures and lamps secured through grants last year from the Green Communities Program and Metropolitan Area Planning Council, as well as public utility rebates.  The town was able to purchase the lights, so it will now longer pay rental fees or electricity for the old sodium lights.  It’s a good budgetary move, Zubricki said.  For those who notice that not all of the town’s street lights have been switched to LED, Zubricki said, not all lights belong to the town.  All others are crisp and bright and will remain so for a long time.
  • Last year the town was hopeful that a grant would secure funding for the badly needed replacement of the seawall at Conomo Point.  That grant application was denied.  Zubricki said the town was set to reapply, and this time (after a site visit by the grant organization), he believes Essex will this time be successful.  Stay tuned.
  • In May voters at Town Meeting will be asked for $30,000 to fund an architectural study to determine the future prospects of the current Essex Public Safety headquarters, which will be vacated by the Fire and Police Department once their new home on John Wise Avenue is completed in Spring 2021.  There has been a lot of interest in what will happen to the Martin Street building, including those interested in it as a site for a new senior center or a rental for an industrial-related business.  The study will offer a clear and dependable set of options for the town.
  • The Public Safety building construction project ran into an unexpected hitch when contractors digging the foundation of the building ran into “very hard ledge”.  The company has asked for an extension for completing the building based on this, for three months.  This would push completion of the project from January 2021 to March.
  • Essex Police Detective Ryan Davis reported that the department’s 2020 “quality of life” initiative (read: traffic stops) has been going well.  There have been increased complaints to the department in recent years that speeding motorists are causing a real disruption in town, so late last year the force dedicated an officer to traffic stops full-time, doubling its previous efforts.  The message from Police Chief Paul Francis was to ramp up stops of violators, but issue more warnings than actual citations.  This approach has been really effective, said Davis.
  • After securing a grant, the Police Department was able to install a prescription drug drop box at the station.  In light of the opioid abuse crisis, these boxes (along with regular community prescription drop days) have become very effective.  The department encourages anyone to drop off “done” prescriptions in the box, at any time, no questions asked.  The Board of Health and the department will continue its twice-yearly prescription give back days.
  • Last month’s “coffee with a cop” program at the Village Market was a big success, said Davis. The program is designed to humanize police officers and offer a chance for members of the department to meet new residents.  The next one will be in two months.  Stay tuned for time and place.

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