Response to quarterly overdose report. Frank Singleton, Health Dept Director, says the epidemic is accelerating. Many users have switched from prescription drugs to heroin because it is so cheap. Also, there is synthetic fentanyl manufactured in Mexico that is very cheap and very deadly. Athletic injuries continue to be a big cause of getting hooked on opioids. He says if this was a communicable disease killing this many people there would be an overwhelming response when this is not being addressed adequately by public health, insurance companies, or the medical community. John Chemaly of Trinity says Lowell is on the cutting edge of responding to this, that other communities are looking at what Lowell is doing as a model for what they should be doing.
Endorse the 2016 Capital Budget. Seeking authority to borrow $9.4mil. CM Murphy says that will be leveraged by state funds, grants, etc and will be the equivalent of $16mil. One big item is repairing the Lawrence Street Bridge which has been the scene of many accidents. It will also improve “curb appeal” and will complete the Riverwalk and the Concord River Greenway. Also items like Shot Detection software, rehab to Lowell Auditorium, purchase a new fire truck. CM says we can not only afford this capital plan, we can’t afford not to do it.
CC Mercier says these things are all needed and that the CM has been thrifty in these proposed expenditures and that she will support it. CC Belanger praises the plan, asks for more info about paving projects. CM says there’s a priority list that will be followed. CC Belanger asks about the shot detection software. CM says this is a much more advanced system that has a camera on it, too. It was developed by the military in Afghanistan. They’ve seen a demonstration that was just incredible. CC Leahy asks about street paving. Also about buying pre-owned vehicles instead of new ones. CC Kennedy says his understanding was that the shot spotter system was going to be obtained with a Federal grant. CM said there were none available so because it was so important decided the city should fund it. Asks about the coverage: it would cover 3 square miles of the city’s 14 square miles. CC Rourke says he supports the plan. It contains all of the things councilors get asked about by constituents. CC Samaras says it’s a very good beginning for this year and will support it. Asks if it’s possible to regionalize purchasing. Conor Baldwin says they are always evaluating regional purchasing opportunities. CC Martin says a good part of this plan is the way it maximizes the use of state and federal funds. Commends the thought and effort put into the plan. Questions the wisdom of including vehicles in the capital plan and also the cost of the vehicles, wondering if less expensive alternatives might be available. CC Milinazzo calls it a “sound capital plan” that the city can afford. He will support it. Capital Plan passes 9 to 0.
Ordinance to Establish Veterans Commission
CC Kennedy says he and several other city councilors have been contacted by several members of veterans groups who have some concerns. CM asks which groups have questions so he can meet with them. Mayor Elliott and CM Murphy both say no one has contacted them. Seems the council is willing to let this go to a public hearing while the manager meets with those concerned.
Resolution to Support Expansion of Services at Tewksbury State Hospital
Report of Finance Subcommittee
Mayor Elliott, its chair, reports subcommittee met last night. Discussed overtime, specifically fire dept OT. Says the city is committed to closing only one fire company at a time but the large expenditure of OT funds makes it necessary to close more than one per shift. Will also continue to analyze overtime and its causes. Committee also reviewed audit of FY14. Auditor says audit showed city in good financial shape.
Report of Public Safety Subcommittee
CC Rourke, its chair, reports they heard an update on Lowell Police strategy for spring and summer. LPD will assign some detectives to patrol to increase the number of total officers on the streets.
CC Rourke to invite Jay Lang, school dept finance person, to brief the city council on the School Building Assistance Bureau process. (Combined with a similar motion by CC Samaras). Samaras says a new high school will be our legacy to the city. We should come together with the school committee to fully understand the time line we must follow. Both motions pass.
CC Rourke on pedestrian crossing signals in downtown Lowell. Has questions about synchronization of green lights and crossing lights. Wants traffic engineer to reexamine the current programming of crossing lights.
CC Samaras that CM meet with members of arts community to plan a major arts festival in Lowell. Passes.
CC Kennedy request progress report on STEM curriculum at Lowell High School. Mayor Elliott says he will get an update from school department. Says there is an existing program there that covers this, it’s just called something else. Passes.
CC Kennedy request report of Lowell Fire Department comparing number of calls to increase in overtime over past five years. Says if we’re going to look seriously at overtime spending, we should require the chief to explain/justify why it has gone up so much. CC Rourke says he doesn’t see the correlation between the number of calls and the overtime cost. Kennedy says he agrees and wasn’t sure how to word the motion succinctly because there are many reasons. He says the intent of the motion is to have the fire chief justify the spending. Passes.
CC Kennedy requests proper department inspect the bridge on Jackson Street for safety. Someone requested he file this but he believes it is a serious issue.
CC Leahy request city do a spring cleaning of downtown. General discussion on a planned cleanup of downtown and various issues with street lights.
CC Leahy asks human resources department provide an explanation of changes to health care benefits.
Mayor Elliott asks for report on the number of riders who ride LRTA buses. CC Samaras asks that this be referred to the Transportation Subcommittee.
Mayor asks CM to work with LRTA to improve bus accessibility to downtown. Mentions the benefits of a smartphone app that alerts to bus time. Wants to at least initiate a discussion with LRTA.
CM announces that yard waste collection will begin next Monday. Meeting adjourns at 9:05 pm.