The value of an effective legislator may not be more evident than word that Representative Eugene O’Flaherty has managed to recover $600,000 a year for City services. With the transfer of the Tobin Bridge from Massport to the newly created Department of Transportation under the State’s transportation reform initiative, the annual payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) that the City receives in return for lost property taxes and other bridge impacts was to be eliminated. That was until Rep. O’Flaherty was able to steer legislation through the process that saved that PILOT for Chelsea. By doing so, he may have helped keep a dozen firefighters and police officers on the streets.
“I think that’s a fair assessment,” said a grateful City Manager Jay Ash. “A loss of revenues in that magnitude would have forced us to make even deeper layoffs than we have, and would have almost certainly resulted in a loss of public safety officers. We’re lucky that Rep. O’Flaherty answered the alarm and came to the rescue.”
For his part, O’Flaherty said his advocacy was the responsible thing to do.
“With cities and towns everywhere trying to marshal every dollar they can to preserve vital services, it was totally unfair that Chelsea was to become an unintended causality of the effort to streamline the operations of our transportation infrastructure. I made that case and fortunately my colleagues agreed that restoring the Chelsea PILOT was the right thing to do,” explained O’Flaherty.
When the Tobin Bridge was built back in the 1950’s, more than 200 homes were destroyed or relocated to allow for the massive structure to cut through the city. The PILOT payment was established in the late 70’s to help compensate the City for the loss of property tax from those homes. Ash called the bridge “both a curse and a blessing.”
“There are numerous impacts that need to be mitigated by its presence, but its connecting us to Boston is a benefit that helps offset some of those other impacts. The PILOT was conceived to ensure that City was not financially harmed by hosting such a regional asset. Without Rep. O’Flaherty’s able leadership, a financial harm could have presented itself at the worse possible time,” stressed Ash, who says the City is still wrestling with shortfalls of revenues in other areas and could have ill-afforded another $600,000 cut.
“I’ve always felt my job on Beacon Hill was to do the right thing while defending the needs of and promoting opportunities for our city and our residents. In this particular case, all of those came together to form a powerful reason for action.
“I know that we all need to do all that we can to support local services during these times of great fiscal strain. I’m happy to be in a position to do that on Beacon Hill,” concluded O’Flaherty.