In case you missed it, here’s what happened at tonight’s Lowell City Council meeting:
Councilor Lorrey: Request City Manager have the proper department develop recreation programs for individuals who fall under the ADA guidelines. (moved up on agenda). Jeff Wilson, chair of Lowell commission on disabilities spoke. The city needs more recreation facilities for anyone with disabilities. My concern with this motion is that we get qualified individuals to come up with an appropriate plan for the clientele to be serviced. This motion definitely does help. Corey Erikson spoke next, thanking Councilor Lorrey for his support of citywide recreational programs. He also commends the council and city manager for expanding overall rec programs in the city. He explains he has a family member with a disability and that there are few opportunities for recreation and creating such programs will make Lowell a better place. Councilor Lorrey thanks the speakers
Back to communications from the City Manager. Councilor Kennedy questions the manager on a report on vehicles used by the police department. He had asked for a specific breakdown of where each vehicle came from and that wasn’t provided. City Manager agreed. Councilor Kennedy asks also for an update on the project at the old Butler School on Gorham Street. Councilor Mendonca asks about the police report and the large number of vehicles possessed by the police department. He recommends considering reducing the inventory of old vehicles if all are not needed. He’s concerned that such vehicles are taking up space that might be better employed otherwise. Everyone seems to have questions about the number of vehicles. It seems the public safety committee is going to take this up at a future meeting. [Editor’s Note: It is surprisingly difficult for a governmental entity to legally dispose of unneeded equipment. Sometimes storing the stuff is the most rational approach. Remember the questions that arose about the Water Department and the disposition of scrap metal. Also, even if the disposal is done properly, someone looking to stir up trouble would likely spin “missing vehicles” into the scandal of the week.]. Councilor Kennedy goes back to the 34 unmarked vehicles listed. He says they are not the marked vehicles being used by the patrol force. He’s curious how we came to acquire so many unmarked vehicles (which are not ones seized). That’s why Kennedy is interested in how the city came to acquire each vehicle.
On to public hearing on the length of time after a project is completed that construction trailers may remain on site. No public participation. Councilor Mercier questions why the limit is set at 60 days and not a week or less. Adam Baacke explains that large projects often have a lot of paperwork that must be done after completion so there are legitimate reasons for that length of time. There are some restrictions on such trailers but it was basically in the discretion of the building commissioner. Passes 9 to 0.
Finance Subcommittee report by chair Joe Mendonca. Discussed Senior Center lease and how it might be funded in the future. Background: needed a way to get Senior Center underway so provided funding from Community Development Block Grants. CDBG funds are shrinking: $2.8mil to $2mil with even less projected in future Federal budget. Under this scenario, the Senior Center lease would use all of CDBG funds. The general fund cannot be used for economic development projects so the strategy might be to shift the lease payments for the Senior Center to the city budget to allow the remaining CDBG funds to be used for economic development projects. That’s just what is being considered now. No decisions have been made. No further discussion. (Ed. Note: Yesterday at the UML ICC, Boston Mayor Tom Menino cited the reduction of CDBG funds of evidence of how the Federal government is increasingly abandoning America’s cities).
Councilor Kennedy: Request Law Department prepare proper vote to accept Section 16A of Massachusetts General Laws chapter 51. Kennedy explains that the point of this is to “look forward and not reflect into the past.” This law is existing legislation that spells out how members of the Election Commission are to be appointed. Upon a vacancy the Manager would notify either the Republican or Democratic City Committee to meet and nominate three people for the election commission which names would be sent to the City Manager within 45 days. (Ed. Note: there must be two Democratic members and two Republican members on the election commission). Kennedy thinks this is a better way to do this. Councilor Elliott supports the motion because “anything to approve the selection process has to be done and not be embarrassed and outraged like we were last week and that Mr. Nutter should resign because of nasty things he wrote about another woman in the community.” Rita Mercier says she spoke to a top woman in the Democratic party who said that “Mr. Nutter was an excellent choice.” Mendonca clarifies that this is just requesting language that will go to a public hearing. Passed on a voice vote.
Councilor Elliott: Request City Auditor provide a report on overtime use in the Police Department. Councilor Elliott says in light of discussions of police overtime he thinks we should have a new report on police OT to date. He’d like this report by individual to see what individuals received the overtime. It’s been reported to me that one senior officer came in for an 8 hour shift and was paid $850 for that amount of effort. Councilor Lorrey asks if OT is set by contract. CM says yes as does the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Auditor says she can give payments per individual but can’t say how the officers were deployed. Kennedy reminds CM of his past request for a report balancing OT vs additional hires. CM says it will be ready next week. Passed by a voice vote.
Councilor Elliott: Request City Manager provide an update on non-emergency fire signals. C. Elliott says he made this motion back in January. He thought contract was to be in place by July. CM says he’ll have to research it. CM says contract is in place but “turnover” among alarm company, the installer, and the monitoring company complicates things. CM says this is “still being worked through.” Stresses these are non-emergency such as “system check” signals. Elliott says people are paying to send signals but they’re not being answered. There is a cost to the city to “split the signal.”
Rita Mercier asks about the rumor that UML has bought the Notini property which pays $61,000 in property taxes. CM says he’s heard rumors but knows of nothing definite and will check it out. Rita says “It’s one thing to expand but it’s another to take vital property off the tax base.” Mayor Murphy tells her substantive comments like that will require a motion at a future meeting.
Adjourned at 7:39 pm
Usually I don’t cover the citations issued at the start of the meeting but remarks made by the owners of MVP Testing, one of the citation recipients, caught my attention. Here’s the portion I heard.
“New business” citation to MVP Testing which recently opened on Merrimack Street. The owners described their business, saying they do DNA tests of incoming immigrants to insure “they are from the country they say they are”; paternity testing so that father’s can be identified and start paying child support “relieving the welfare rolls” of such children. They also do testing for accused or convicted criminals who maintain their innocence. State Representative Colleen Garry accompanied the owners.