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Preview of City Council Meeting — June 25, 2019

The summer meeting schedule of once every two weeks combined with end of the fiscal year administrative transfers have helped make this week’s City Council agenda one of the longest in a while. Although the City has reached an agreement on the voting law suit, the Executive Sessions, at the close of the public agenda, continue: “For purposes of discussing Executive Session Minutes, Notes, and Materials in connection with the lawsuit Huot et al v City Of Lowell et al, to determine whether such minutes, notes, and materials may be released under the Public Records Law.”

The first order of business will be the appoint the current Assistant City Auditor to the Interim City Auditor position while the City Council  seeks a new permanent City Auditor.  The position became vacant when Bryan Perry resigned from the position he held for 3 years to become Wilmington’s Town Accountant.

GENERAL PUBLIC HEARINGS

There will be a public hearing in advance of voting on a Zoning change that requests extension of Light Industrial Zone to include 264 and 266 Plain Street and 58 Montreal Street.

UTILITY PUBLIC HEARING

National Grid has 7 requests on the agenda: Replacing Existing Gas Main on Middlesex Street; Replacing Existing Gas Main on Chelmsford Street; Reconstruction of Gas Pressure Regular Station at Moulton Square (West 6th St. and Jewett Street); Pole installations at 12 Manchester Street, 112 Quebec Street, Court Street and Lundberg Street.

Waveguide, a company that installs fiber and wireless network infrastructure has 2 hearings; one to Install Conduit Underground and Below Bridge (Pawtucket Bridge at Northern Canal) and the other is to Install Cell Antenna at same location.  These enhancements are in relation to the TIGER grants, federal transportation improvement funds.

MOTION RESPONSES

Water Infrastructure Improvement Motion by Mayor William Samaras “Request the City Manager instructs Water Department provide a report on the conditions of the drinking water distribution network in the City of Lowell.” The two-page report was submitted by Mark Young, Executive Director of the Lowell Regional Water Utility department. It provides a detailed overview of the condition of the equipment used.  The report concludes with “Deferred maintenance and upgrade projects to increase the reliability of the system for the residences and businesses will be addressed with the recent passage of the $45M loan order.”

Monument at Lemieux Park Motion (4/30/201) by Councilor Karen Cirillo “Request City Manager have the proper department look into providing a concrete base for the monument that is leaning/sinking at Lemieux Park on Mill Street.”  Ralph Snow, DPD Commissioner, responded that the monument was examined and it was determined that a proper base was required. Repairs were completed on May 28th.

LFD and LPD Renovation Update Motion (2/12/2019) by Councilor J. Leahy “Request City Manager provide update regarding renovations at the Lowell Police Department Headquarters; Motion (4/9/2019) by Councilor V. Nuon/Councilor J. Leahy “Request City Manager provide update regarding repairs to Fire Houses in the City and the Police Headquarters.”

The motions were answered by Ralph Snow, the DPD Commissioner.  Design Proposals were submitted for the Police Headquarters’ Locker Room reconstruction and a designer will be selected. “The City is currently in negotiations with the highest scoring technical firm. At this time, it is too early in the process to estimate timeframes for design and construction.”

As far as the Fire Houses were concerned a list prepared by the City Fire Chief of the current project and their latest update was attached to the memorandum.  The items on the list are being addressed by the Fire Chief in conjunction with DPW.

Add to Paving Lists Motion by Councilor K. Cirillo “Request City Manager add Ames Street and Mill Street in the Back Central Neighborhood to the Paving List”; Councilor K. Cirillo “Request City Manager add Western Avenue in the Acre/Highlands to the Paving List.” Christine Lancy, City Engineer responded that “Ames Street will be considered for roadway resurfacing (mill and overlay) in future years since there isn’t a current plan (FY2020-FY2022) to restore streets in close proximity to Ames Street… The pavement management index database does not recommend any resurfacing at this time for Mill Street. The roadway is rated in fair condition… Western Avenue will be considered for roadway reclamation in future years since there isn’t a current plan (FY2020-FY2022) to restore streets in close proximity to Western Avenue. Spot repairs through the DPW Streets Department can be made at localized areas in the interim.”

National Grid Gas Safety Motion Councilor R. Mercier “Request City Manager have proper department consult with the gas utility company to see if possible to install gas pressure relief valve safety whistle to alert customers if gas line is over pressurized. Motion Mayor Samaras “Request City Manager work with National Grid to develop a presentation to the City Council on the steps and procedures that are taken by National Grid and the City to ensure safety for Lowell residents.”

“National Grid provided detailed information on how their system operates and what safety measures exist internal to their gas distribution system to protect the system and its customers. Due to the sensitive nature of the Homeland Security and CEI protected documents, the audience of this detailed information was limited to City officials.” The two-page report submitted to the City Council addresses every concerns and questions raised in these motions.

Traffic Calming Issues A group of motions were addressed in this response. The motions are (5/28/19) Councilor R. Elliott , Stackpole Street;  (4/30/19) Councilor V. Nuon,   Salem Street;  (4/02/19) Mayor B. Samaras,  Bowers/Fletcher Streets;  (3/19/19) Councilor V. Nuon , Nbd;  (3/05/19) Councilor J. Leahy, Monadnock/Raynor Streets. The City has begun to develop a Neighborhood Traffic Calming Policy (NTCP), in order to create a step-by-step process for residents and businesses to follow which will enable the City to assess the issues and implement solutions. A flow chart that explains the policy, which is in its initial draft phase, is attached to the response.

Ridesharing Pickup Zones Motion (3/19/19) by Councilor R. Elliott request City Manager have transportation engineer provide report regarding possible Lyft and Uber drop off/ pick up locations in downtown on nights and weekends. “Although it is possible to create a drop off location in the application, it is not as enforceable because the rider and driver can override the app by simply driving another block. Therefore, the spot will be designated at pick-up locations only and will be in effect on Friday and Saturday nights from 8:00 pm to 3:00 am.”

Minute Parking Middlesex St. Motion (5/14/19) by Councilor K. Cirillo “Request City Manager have the proper department install a ‘15 minute parking’ sign at 262 Middlesex Street. “…”The Transportation Engineer has visited the site and there is a metered space at this location. The Parking Director has agreed to remove the metered spot. The 15 minute spot is on the 60-day trial memo for approval by the City Council. “

Clemente Baseball Field Update Motion (4/2/2019) by Councilor V. Nuon “Request City Manager have DPD give updated status on the lighting at the Roberto Clemente Baseball Field.” “The existing electrical infrastructure at the park does not support the desire to have any of the existing fields lit, or to supply power for a future concession building or scoreboard. ..Proposals for electric design work was solicited…The recently completed Open Space and Recreation Plan includes the improvements at Clemente Field at Koumantzelis Park in the action items for the first few years of the plan. The recently completed Open Space and Recreation Plan includes the improvements at Clemente Field at Koumantzelis Park in the action items for the first few years of the plan. The recently completed Open Space and Recreation Plan includes the improvements at Clemente Field at Koumantzelis Park in the action items for the first few years of the plan.”

City Traffic Plan Motion (5/21/2019) by Councilor J. Leahy “Request City Manager have the proper department provide a report to City Council regarding Traffic Plan Surrounding construction projects in the City over the next five years.” The 9 page report addresses 18 on-going projects.

Bus Shelter Motion (1/22/19) Mayor Samaras “Request City Manager have proper department look into the installation of a bus shelter at the LRTA stop on Broadway Street near the Lowell Senior Center”…”DPW determined that the sidewalk in this area does not provide the width to allow for a bus shelter and additionally would block handicap accessibility…DPD is currently working with those [private] property owners to incorporate a bus shelter that could accommodate the Senior Center and residents.

Business Attraction Motion (4/23/19) by Councilor D. Conway “Request City Manager/DPD set up meeting with area Chamber of Commerce organizations and the Lowell Plan to develop strategies to attract new businesses and jobs (commercial and industrial) to the City.” Diana Tradd, DPD Director, wrote that “The Department of Planning and Development (DPD) through its Economic Development Office works closely with the City Manager’s Office, the Lowell Development and Financial Corporation (LDFC), UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College, the Middlesex 3 Coalition, among other stakeholders, to attract new businesses to Lowell.”  A list of 8 representative activities/partnership is presented in the response which concluded with “DPD has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday, July 9th from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm in the Mayor’s Reception Room, to discuss issues related to attracting new businesses to Lowell. Those invited include UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College, the Greater Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce, the LDFC/Lowell Plan, and the Middlesex 3 Coalition.”

Lighting Along River and Canal Walkways Motion (5/7/19) by Councilor K. Cirillo “Request the City Manager direct the proper department to look into options on how to improve the lighting for the entire length of the Riverwalk from Boott Mills to Lelacheur Park.” “Pedestrian lamps in these areas are owned and maintained by multiple agencies in addition to the City of Lowell, including but not limited to the Lowell National Historical Park, University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML), and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation…To better understand whether additional light is needed, DPD and DPW are arranging a joint walkthrough audit of the Riverwalk. The public will be invited to attend, with special outreach to abutters and appropriate neighborhood groups…In addition to lighting, residents of Renaissance by the River who attended the May 7th City Council meeting also raised concerns about other health and safety issues on the Riverwalk…An interdepartmental meeting including LPD, DPD, DPW, Health Department and the Manager’s office has been scheduled for July 11 to discuss how best to address these problems. A report summarizing the findings and solutions will be presented to the City Council after the meeting.”

Car Condo and Neighboring Parking Motions (5/21/2019) by Councilor K. Cirillo “Request City Manager have the proper department look into making the vacant lot on Elm Street into neighborhood parking . “Request City Manager have the proper department look into making the vacant lot at the corner of Merrill Street and Rogers Street into a car condo.”

The response indicates that “Currently the vacant property at the corner of Rogers and Merrill Street, 18 Rogers Street, is privately owned. The City’s Law Department has recently attempted to contact the owner, Chase Bank, in order to resolve the outstanding assessments due. Should that request go unanswered the City’s Law Department will file for a tax taking judgment with the Land Court. Similarly, the vacant property on 49 Elm Street is privately owned. The City’s Law Department has filed for final judgment on tax taking in land court; this property is pending the Courts resolution…Neighborhood parking areas on parcels such as those listed above will be considered as part of an overall neighborhood parking strategy.”

Letter Readings Motion (5/20/2019) by K. Cirillo “Request City Manager have the proper department work with the Theater and Arts Community to have a Lowell ‘Lowell Reading’ Event.” Henri Marchand, Director of the Office of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (CASE), provided the response and wrote “CASE has done some early research on the possibility of having local theater arts groups stage a dramatic letter reading event similar to Letters Live utilizing historical correspondences by Lowell writers, artists, workers and others. The response so far has been very positive…Image Theater and Middlesex Community College (MCC) have expressed initial and enthusiastic interest in pursuing this concept…It is expected that researching and choosing a selection of letters, developing a script and production elements and rehearsing would place a possible staging for this event in the winter/spring of 2020 time frame.”

Inspector Tablets Motion by Councilor V. Nuon “Request City Manager review inspection and enforcement procedures within Development Services to determine if better efficiency can be achieved through transfer of data via tablets or other electronic means with the aim of improving turnaround time without adding personnel.” Eric Slagle, Director of Development Services, wrote that “Development Services has been working with the MIS Department to identify appropriate devices, working with outside vendors for the data management system, and are working to identify/plan for funding.” They will be working with the CFO to identify sources of funding for the purchase price of the devices, when a final decision has been made.”

Rental Property Registry Motion by Councilor R. Elliott “Request City Council discuss developing a Rental Property Registry to track rental properties in the City.” R. Eric Slagle, Director of Development Services wrote that “As the Council is aware, the Division of Development Services began implementing a rental ordinance in 2013. To date, the Office Manager and Clerks in Development Services have received and entered over 20,000 applications for units throughout the City, which includes the applications for owner-occupied two-families… Development Services will be working with the MIS Department to determine how appropriate portions of this information can be made accessible as part of a registry going forward. We will report back to the City Council with options for a public-facing access to this information.”

VOTES FROM THE CITY MANAGER

There are 17 items to be voted on, 15 of which apply to  end-of-the-year financial housekeeping. In her explanation to the City Council, City Manager Eileen Donoghue writes “I am hereby requesting that the City Council consider a number of votes to balance various accounts in deficit by utilizing other budgetary accounts with surpluses, pursuant to Chapter 44 § 33B of the Massachusetts General Laws, as well as some other relevant year-end financial matters that require action before the June 30th close of the official year 2019. Since some appropriations are interdepartmental, the Department of Revenue requires a vote of the City Council to be recorded.”

As for the remaining two votes, one pertains to an amendment to the Spinners lease of Lelacheur Park and the other is Endorsing the Approval of the 2019 Open Space and Recreation Plan.  Here is the link to the page on the City’s website that contains all the information on the Open Space and Recreation Plan, including the draft of the five year plan.

REPORTS and PETITIONS

Response Regarding Petition on Park Street.

Informational Report on Construction Projects; a 4-page report updating the status of the various road and infrastructure upgrades and renovations.

The City’s Wire Inspector recommended petitions to install a utility pole at 500 Wentworth, Woburn Street at intersection with Easton Street, and an electric conduit at 27 West Third.

National Grid is petitioning to install a pole on Old Ferry Road.

CITY COUNCIL MOTIONS

There are 11 motions on the agenda.

  1. Councilor J. Leahy/Councilor R. Elliott/Councilor R. Mercier/Councilor K. Cirillo “Request City Manager meet with Tsongas Arena Commission regarding the management company at the arena.”

I cannot remember four Councilors submitting the same motion.  I wonder what precipitated it.  maybe an e-mail.  We will find out soon enough what this is about.

  1. Councilor J. Leahy/Councilor D. Conway “Request Rules Sub-Committee examine possibility of restructuring City Council Agenda so that motions can be placed at the beginning of said agenda.”

This is good motion.  Maybe it will prevent the regular suspension of rules.

  1. Councilor J. Leahy “Request City Manager provide update to City Council regarding contract with Verizon for the placement of smart technology on poles throughout the City.”
  2. Councilor D. Conway “Request City Manager meet with City Solicitor to formally request a copy of all ‘Time Sheets’ reflecting hours spent and tasks billed by attorneys; as well as costs and expenses for the litigation of Huot Et Al V. City of Lowell.”

I am not quite sure of the intent and the timing of this motion.  We will get a full explanation Tuesday night.

  1. Councilor R. Mercier “Request City Manager have Transportation Engineer find ways and means to improve traffic safety at the Perkins/Aiken Streets intersection during events at the Ball Park.”
  2. Councilor R. Mercier “Request City Manager have proper department explore options into making the fountain at JFK Plaza more appealing.”
  3. Councilor R. Mercier “Request City Manager have proper department install additional speed limit signs on Andover Street.”
  4. Councilor K. Cirillo “Request City Manager have the proper department work with the theater and arts community to collaborate on the City Of Lowell hosting national film festival.”
  5. Councilor K. Cirillo “Request City Manager have proper department review parking/traffic issues on Riverside Street, between Alma And Lafayette Streets In Pawtucketville.”
  6. Councilor J. Milinazzo “Request City Manager have Transportation Engineer review inbound left turn in front of Hannaford’s on Rogers Street; this left turn was not supposed to be allowed when Hannaford’s was approved.”
  7. Mayor B. Samaras “Request City Manager instruct proper department to look into completing the paving of the sidewalk on Hovey Street between Luce St. and Parkview.”

 

Lowell: The 2019 Franco-American of the Year ~ Curtis J. LeMay

Today June 23, 2019 marked the opening of the 49th Annual Celebration Lowell Franco-American Week. Founded in 1970, the celebration emphasizes the Franco-American contributions to the City of Lowell. A variety of events from the City Hall flag raising and traditional dancing to a supper, family Bingo and a Soiree Franco-Americaine highlight the culture of this ethnic group. Created in 1975 as part of the week, the Franco-American of the Year award honors a deserving citizen of Greater-Lowell who demonstrates integrity, high moral standards and dedication to fostering Franco-American culture, heritage and the French language.

I was pleased to be invited to today’s opening Mass and breakfast held at St. Marguerite d’ Youville Parish in Dracut – where my good friend, colleague, former student from Lowell High days and fellow community and political activist ~ Curtis J. LeMay ~ was announced as the honoree for 2019. The announcement was greeted enthusiastically by a crowd that included his father – Armand W. LeMay who was the first recipient in 1975. Armand was a founding member of the committee and Curtis joined the committee as its youngest member in the 1980s and served as President in 1995.

Curtis was presented with a plaque recognizing the honor with contains an image of the Franco-American bell monument located in front of Lowell City Hall. The bell was an old Lowell school bell procured by his Dad for a dollar and Curtis himself helped install it. It was the first in a long series of ethnic monuments in the City Hall area.

Excerpts from the letter nominating Curtis J. LeMay as Franco-American of the Year:

My recommendation is for Curtis LeMay. You all know of Curtis’ many accomplishments in our organization as well as for City of Lowell… it is a good time to refresh our memory

Curtis has been instrumental in many facets of the organization besides his work in the City of Lowell as a City Councilor for many years. We are very fortunate to have a Frenchman represent us in civic affairs. Our Flag Day at City Hall each year has been a success due to all the unseen background work of Curtis LeMay. He sees to the entire organizational needs for that event… very successful and has been his pride and joy to see its success.

Curtis has also helped in the installation of the Franco-American bell in front of City Hall… proud to have my picture taken next to that bell… others have mentioned they were honored and proud that their French heritage was so honored at City Hall.

Curtis continues to be an active presence in many events in the city for the French as well as other ethnic groups… we are privileged to have him take time from his busy schedule. We must remember that the monument in memory of our veterans near the canal… is also a Curtis masterpiece… how many meetings did he attend to see to that monument? His influence was surely an asset … so that it would remain in view for our Franco-American veterans…

He has surely proven and continues to be a member proud of his heritage.

Curtis – retired from the Middlesex Corrections Department and who now serves on the Greater Lowell Technical High School committee as a member and Chair and also serves as a member of the Mass Democratic State Committee for the First Middlesex District – was moved and proud in his acceptance as he talked about Armand and his beloved late-mother Connie LeMay and of how he and his four brothers were brought up. He noted the many Sisters/nuns in the audience and thanked them for their role and commitment to the schools and hospitals over the years. While bemoaning the faltering of the many social clubs, he reemphasized his commitment to preserve, promote and protect his heritage and culture. Of course, as always at his side, his wife and partner of 40 years – Susan LeMay.

Congratulations to Curtis LeMay – 2019 Franco-American of the Year! Well-deserved.

 

Ireland: where Trump is not, on climate change by Marjorie Arons-Barron

We hadn’t even finished unpacking from a vacation in Ireland when we were accosted by headlines that the Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its plans to undo years of modest progress on climate change, especially the Obama Clean Power Plan. The Trump Affordable Clean Energy Rule’s bow to the U.S. coal industry (among other fossil fuel players) starkly contrasts with the Irish government’s new proposal to have 70 percent of energy be renewable by 2030.  Ireland’s multi-faceted plan  would, among other things, raise its current 10-euro per ton carbon tax to 80 euros by 2030.  We could only shrug our heads and sigh.

The EPA plan, which is expected to go into effect in 30 days, will roll back tailpipe emission standards.  If the Irish government’s proposal goes into effect, new gas and diesel cars would be banned starting in 2030, with several incentives to drivers to switch to electric cars.  Local communities could, for example, provide cheaper parking rates for such cars, and they could bar fossil fuel cars from entering town centers. In new buildings, oil furnaces would be banned in 2022 and gas-fueled furnaces in 2025.  There are financing plans to subsidize homeowners having to retrofit.  People who create their own energy would be able to sell excess electricity back to the grid starting in 2021. Single use plastics would be heavily taxed. And on and on and on.

Only time will tell how much of the Irish government’s plan will actually be embraced and implemented, but it is many steps in the right direction.  The Emerald Isle is definitely going further green. The United States is going further to the dark side, inevitably leading to increases in pollution despite warnings by most if not all scientists that climate change due to fossil fuels’ heating of our environment is an existential threat.  We have a scant 20 years before the damage we are wreaking become irreversible.

Perhaps worst of all, the Trump administration is making changes that, if approved by the Supreme Court, would make it more difficult for future Presidents to reverse his reversal, limiting the EPA’s ability to make rules governing the whole country. By devolving decision-making about environmental regulations to the individual states, the administration is impeding progress that could protect the lives of our grandchildren and the very survival of the planet.

Trump, the consummate hypocrite, is dismissive of climate change – and the increased floods, droughts, wildfires, extreme temperature swings – while at the same time applying for the building of a sea wall  around his Doonbeg, Ireland golf course to protect it from erosion due rising of the Atlantic Ocean. The permit cites the cause of the problem as climate change. Just one of the many issues that should be driving us to the streets in protest – or at least to the ballot box in  17 months to eject the planet’s biggest threat.

This from a Man Who Served Three Republican Presidents

What happens in the nation’s capital does matter on the local level, in myriad ways. Peter Wehner served in the Reagan and two Bush presidential administrations.

In the Washington Post newspaper, Peter Wehner offers his view of the lying liars occupying the White House at this time.

 

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