The council recognizes and commends six Lowell Firefighters for being honored yesterday by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for their efforts on the evening of July 10, 2014 at the Branch Street fire.
Councilor Mercier says people tell her that there are fewer police walking or bicycling. Chief Taylor explains that there are four overlapping areas. There are “sector cruisers” in every section of the city. Then there are officers assigned to patrol on foot or on bikes or Segways. On top of that is the community response teams that operate separately. They each have a crime analyst and work closely with neighborhood groups. They seek out “hot spots” and try to address them before they become big problems. On top of that, there is the Gang Unit which is interdicting dangerous activity wherever it arises or threatens to arise. The Chief cites a couple of recent examples. He says that the police are still investigating several “shot spotter” systems that combine audio and video surveillance. He says they have not yet found the best system for the city. City Manager Murphy explains that the money for the system has been appropriated and is available when the proper system is identified and selected.
Council discusses the Massachusetts School Building Authority’s advancement of Lowell to the “next level” of the process. Councilor Belanger asks about the MSBA’s caution against “not getting ahead of the process.” Manager Murphy explains that means the city cannot hire its own consultant to conduct a feasibility study; that’s a decision to be made by the MSBA not be by the city. Expects the process to take about a year. Manager Murphy says that a year from now “we should know where the new high school is going to be and its configuration.”
City has been awarded a $1mil+ grant to support services to homelessness. Councilor Martin comments that Lowell does much for homeless individuals but the city continues to gets improperly branded as being hostile to the homeless. He says the council is hostile towards panhandling; not homeless. Councilor Belanger says the panhandlers have gotten more active since a recent Federal Court decision that struck down the city’s restrictions on panhandling. He suggests that the city erect “drop boxes” around the city so that the city could urge people to put money in the “drop box” to be used to help the homeless rather than handing cash over to a panhandler. Manager Murphy says the city is still exploring ways to recognize the free speech rights of panhandlers. He says the decision says that the court decision stated that the city has other tools at its disposal. Manager Murphy explains that those other tools are enforcing existing rules against disorderly conduct, littering, jaywalking, etc. He says he’s been meeting with members of his administration about this new strategy and will soon do a presentation for the subcommittee on the homeless. The council votes unanimously to accept the money.
On a point of personal privilege, Councilor Mercier says she was disappointed that no local high schools chose to participate in the Voice of Democracy contest sponsored by local veterans organizations. She asks the mayor to ask the School Superintendent why Lowell High didn’t respond to this. Mayor Elliott says he is disappointed to hear this because he actually filed a motion on the school committee to ensure that Lowell High participated. Councilor Belanger says he agrees, he heard the same complaints from veterans on Veterans Day, and he’d like to get an answer to this. Mayor Elliott says he will file a motion on this for next Wednesday’s School Committee meeting.
Councilor Mercier asks to have a city representative visit each school in the city and meet with the custodians to review things that have to be fixed or repaired in the schools but that are not getting done despite having put in work orders. Manager Murphy says that each year the Inspectional Services Division has to inspect each school. The city’s chief building inspector has just completed that and they are about to meet to decide how the work will get done.
Councilor Samaras motion to assess street lights across the city. Says this has been a recurring concern by neighborhood groups.
Councilors Leahy and Samaras ask City Manager to work with Belvidere neighborhood group to beautify trash cans and traffic signals in the neighborhood. The neighborhood group has applied for a grant from the city to pay for this.
Meeting adjourns at 7:44 pm.