Capital Plan – City Manager Murphy says the final Capital Plan will be presented to the council along with the budget, but here are some of the highlights; $11.1mil in FY17 will be spent on Capital Plan which will leverage state and federal funds so city contribution will only be $6mil. First priority is infrastructure improvements including $3.2mil in paving sidewalks and curbing. $1.3mil will be spent on Hamilton Canal parking; $1mil for design of a garage and $300,000 for a temporary surface lot that can be used in the meantime. Concrete walkway on Lucy Larcom Parkway will be replaced with a more durable surface. On JFK Plaza, a third island will be added (adjacent to the two already in front of city hall) with the expectation the new island will be the site of new ethnic monuments. There will be some repairs to police station and to three fire stations. The next priority is economic development. Repairing the restrooms at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium is a priority. On the South Common, the plan previously presented to the council will now be implemented. The library will get new carpeting and several new pieces of equipment for DPW will also be purchased. Murphy describes it as a “cautious endeavor” that includes most of the capital items requested by councilors over the past year. He invited comments and suggestions from councilors on this preliminary plan prior to the presentation of the final plan.
Vote to approve TIF Agreement with MA/Com – MA/Com gives a brief presentation. MA/Com is a semiconductor company serving aerospace, telecom, and others. Founded in 1950. Corporate HQ in Lowell with 373 employees in Lowell. Global presence with 1200 worldwide employees and 5000 products that are components in other products like cell phones, airport radar, MRI machines, and many others. Two buildings in Lowell: Chelmsford St building is 173000sf; at 123 Hale St is 63000sf. They need more space. They are looking at sites in Mass and NH but one site is at 144 Chelmsford St, adjacent to their current building. They would like to build a new building there, creating a 3-building campus. Plan a 50000sq corporate HQ. Project will be about $15mil. Will add 47 fulltime jobs over the next 5 years in many fields. Display artist rendering of new building – lots of glass with some brick-colored material. It’s intended to “honor the history of Lowell.” They estimate that MA/Com employees spent about $1mil per year in Lowell.
Manager Murphy says this is exciting news; that it’s been a pleasure working with MA/Com on this. It’s a great corporate entity in Lowell. He also congratulates DPD leadership and staff for negotiating this TIF. Under the TIF, MA/Com will continue to pay their existing taxes but there will be a reduction on the new construction for a set period of time. Also, the agreement calls for Lowell residents to get preference in hiring for the 47 new jobs and that if those jobs are not created within 5 years, there is “claw back” of the tax break.
Councilors are united in their praise for this. Councilor Belanger emphasizes how the just-described Capital Plan shows the city’s commitment to infrastructure that supports businesses like MA/Com. He also mentions how the city’s plans to make the Lord Overpass more walkable will work well with the MA/Com expansion which is just a short distance down Chelmsford St.
TIF approved 9-0.
Council goes on record opposing cuts to the Mass Cultural Council in the FY17 state budget.
Personnel Subcommittee recommends full council submit individual performance evaluations of city manager to city clerk no later than May 20. Once results compiled, council should meet again to discuss a merit pay increase for the city manager based on the performance evaluation and on a survey of city and town manager salaries conducted by the mayor’s office.
A company offers a petition to rent space to erect a telecommunications tower on Gage Field. City Manager says the first he heard of this was when it appeared on the council agenda. Councilors are dubious of putting anything like this on that site. Even though the normal procedure is to send such a petition to the Law Department for legal evaluation and then it would come back to the council for a public hearing. Councilor Rourke makes a motion to deny the petition outright. Motion to deny petition passes unanimously.
By Councilors Leary and Leahy – Request City Manager send a letter on behalf of the city council to the Lowell High Headmaster and school community, congratulating them on successfully receiving accreditation. Councilor Leary explains the importance of this accomplishment and all the hard work that went it to it. Motion passes.
By Councilor Leahy, request zoning subcommittee meet to discuss the application of zoning by-laws throughout the city. Councilor Leahy says this is prompted by questions/suggestions from neighborhood leaders. Passes.
By Councilor Samaras, request City Manager budget an amount of $2000 for Sustainability Commission funding for upcoming fiscal year. Passes.
By Councilors Samaras and Belanger, request City Manager prepare a request to MassDOT to prioritize the need for the Rourke Bridge replacement. Mayor Kennedy relinquishes chair to Vice Chair Rourke. Councilor Samaras explains that the Secretary of Transportation spoke last week about this and said a replacement “was not on the horizon.” Based on that, Samaras says the city should create a commission or a committee of business and neighborhood leaders to advocate for making the Rourke Bridge replacement a priority with the state. He says the main concern is safety; the amount of time an ambulance or fire truck takes to get across the bridge at peak traffic times. Councilor Belanger concurs that it was discouraging to learn that the state does not see this as a priority. He says it should be up to the Lowell legislative delegation alone because people from many other communities depend on this bridge. Mayor Kennedy says that Lowell has wanted a permanent bridge for 30 years. This will stay on the backburner for the state unless we continuously push it at all levels. Says the state is holding a public hearing tomorrow in Andover on its capital plan. Lowell should have representatives there urging the state to include $1mil in its current capital plan for the necessary environmental study which is a precondition to getting anything further done. Predicts that the $500,000 bridge feasibility study from two years ago will be obsolete soon unless it is acted upon soon. This bridge has an impact on the entire region. Councilor Milinazzo agrees with everything that’s been said and then suggests what he describes as a radical idea of adding a third temporary lane to the bridge that would reverse direction with rush hour. Councilor Elliott says he sits on that bridge every day and agrees it needs to be replaced. He does point out that we won’t get a 4 lane bridge unless there’s a plan to widen Westford St to Route 3 to four lanes as well and the acquisition costs of doing that are very high.
By Councilor Rourke, request city council name the playground at Father Maguire Park in honor of Henry J. (Mickey) Corcoran Jr.
By Councilor Rourke, request City Manager bring Supt Taylor and UML Police Supt Brashers before council to speak of the partnership between the city and the university
By Councilor Elliott, request City Manager have Police Supt look into training available police officers to be able to identify counterfeit drivers licenses.
By Councilor Elliott, request City Manager report on the amount of revenue received from Payment in Lieu of Taxes program.
By Mayor Kennedy, request Zoning Subcommittee discuss potential changes to current abutter notification requirements regarding variance and zoning changes. Mayor Kennedy withdraws this motion because it duplicates Councilor Leahy’s already-passed motion on the same topic.
Suspension of rules; Councilor Elliott brings up issue of loud, late night parties on Pine Street. Says he wants citizens to know that the city is aware of the problem and is trying to address it. Councilors go into a general discussion on loud late night parties.
Meeting adjourns at 8:23pm.