Lowell City Council Meeting: October 10, 2017

Mayor’s business: citations for Kinetic Sculpture Race, the Mormon Church for its day of service, and the Gujarati Association of New England which organized the Indian Cultural Festival.

Vote: Authorize City Manager to enter into purchase and sale agreement with S&R Construction for a parcel in the Hamilton Canal District. Representative of S&R addresses the council. Longtime Lowell company that does heavy construction projects across New England. Total of 125 employees. Committed to Lowell. Now, corporate office and maintenance facility are both on Broadway. Interested in building a 4-story building in Hamilton Canal District both for its corporate offices and office rental space and food or retail on ground floor.

Motions Taken Out of Order

  1. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. have all related departments address and correct the ongoing problems at 73-75 Beech Street.
  2. Rourke – Req. City Mgr. have LPD and Inspectional Services provide a report on recent police activity as well as any inspectional reports in regards to 75 Beech Street.

Registered speaker: Tel Sar, then Ken Vezina. Offending house has lots of loud activity late at night. Have called police, they respond, but it’s a long term problem. City Manager says the city is aware of the problems with this property but he’ll clearly ratchet up the attention. Says inspectional service, fire department, police will be there to look for code violations. If the property owner does not take care of the property and its tenants, the city will shut it down.

Motion Responses

JJ Boomers site redevelopment. Eric Slagle says preliminary meeting has occurred with representatives of Market Basket. Initial plan was to maintain JJ Boomers as a restaurant. Market Basket must first file with the state and then the city. He expects them to do that before the end of the year in the hopes of beginning construction next spring.

Cable TV options. There aren’t many ways to reduce the rate of subscribers citywide. Individuals can try to call Comcast and bargain for a lower rate. But Verizon is not going to bring its service to Lowell.

Cawley Right of Way Costs. Councilor Milinazzo reviews report that would require removal of trees, portions of lawns, etc, along Clark and Douglas Roads. Other things like traffic lights. Says in his opinion this is a substantial expense on the taxpayers and will be a hardship on the neighborhood. Councilor Milinazzo also complains about a pro-Cawley mailer that is being distributed that he says is inaccurate. He urges City Manager to publicly call out information that is inaccurate. Councilor Samaras criticizes the report’s claim that 46 buses could be added without any additional cost. He says it’s the responsibility of the city to give taxpayers an accurate account of the cost of this project.

Councilor Leary says he doesn’t know where to begin. He asks if the city manager is supposed to respond to Facebook, too? He repeats items of misinformation shared by pro-downtown people. He says people in the neighborhood are legitimately concerned about the impact on the neighborhood. But we should study the impact that Lawrence High has had on that neighborhood. He says Fall River has three high schools in its nicest neighborhood. He believes those schools work well in their neighborhoods. He complains that he’s asked for information on various things that hasn’t been provided (like flooding in that neighborhood). He says the primary reason he wants a new high school is to upgrade the science labs. He’s all for more information, but the problem with this issue is that people don’t want accurate information; they want information that supports their opinion of where the school should go.

Councilor Rourke says these are the same recycled motions we’ve had over and over again. Maybe it’s political posturing or maybe they just like to hear themselves talk. He says there was a plan to provide busing at no cost, but that plan was tossed in the garbage barrel and the person who designed it was forced out of the city. We’ve followed the letter of the law on this process yet people want to blame Skanska or the manager. By the reaction of some people you’d think we were putting a federal penitentiary over there rather than a new high school.

Mayor Kennedy asks about the $350,000 estimate for lights at Andover and Douglas Road and another $350,000 for Andover and Clark Road. He then asks about the need to realign Raven Road and remove its center island. He asks if the $350,000 number is just a broad estimate. Traffic engineer says the bulk of the work would be similar in both locations. The Raven realignment would be needed and that the center island is just plantings so that would be easily taken out and replaced with asphalt. Kennedy then asks about the costs of sidewalks. Douglas road would require repaving with sidewalk installation; Clark road would not. The costs of tree removal and stone wall relocation would be additional. Kennedy then asks about installation of sidewalks in the Tewksbury portion of Clark Road. Traffic engineer says it would be complicated by presence of wetlands, would require permission of Tewksbury conservation commission. Mayor Kennedy addresses Councilor Rourke, says the reason these motions are “recycled” is because they aren’t being answered. Taxpayers are asking councilors and councilors are unable to tell them. Maybe no one knows, but if that’s the case, people shouldn’t be quoting costs.

Councilor Leary says he doesn’t think there should be sidewalks installed on Clark Road, that people walking should use Douglas Road instead. Says a high school at Cawley will not harm the neighborhood.

Councilor Elliott says the reason we’re not getting information is because of the lawsuit that was filed. That’s put a stop to the process. Says the $20 million contingency built into the downtown proposal is only 5 percent of the overall cost. He says 9 out of 10 projects like that exceed that contingency amount and the city will be left with asking the taxpayers for more money or cutting portions of the project.

Councilor Milinazzo says he disagrees with Elliott, that the information is available but we’re just not getting it. He says what we have now is not the true picture.

Councilor Belanger says that until a site is officially chosen, the very expensive designs and studies can’t be done. He says we may decide at some point that widening roads and installing sidewalks are too expensive and not do them. People shouldn’t be acting as the judge and jury and acting like they’re making binding decisions on the costs of improvements that may not even be done.

Motion taken out of order:

  1. Rourke – Req. City Mgr. and the DPW dedicate a granite park bench at Callery Park in honor of Mrs. Mary Kay McNeil.

CITY COUNCIL – MOTIONS

  1. Rourke – Req. City Mgr. update Council on the delay associated with contaminated soil in regards to MASSDOT—VFW Highway project from University Avenue to Aiken Avenue; such report should outline safety measures that have been put in place during the delay.
  2. Samaras – Req. City Mgr. provide an update on all costs at high school sites associated with traffic, including traffic upgrades along Rogers Street, Douglas Road, Village Street and Clark Road.
  3. Samaras – Req. City Mgr. provide an updated time line for each component of the MEPA review.
  4. Samaras/C. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. provide an update regarding costs of all infrastructure improvements (ie. Water/Sewer upgrades); include the costs associated with the replication of all the open space areas pursuant to Article 97.
  5. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. clarify what the costs will be regarding the pools for each proposed high school location.
  6. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. update City Council regarding LFD turn-out gear.
  7. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. clarify the issue regarding park land which was to be used by Lowell Catholic.

Meeting adjourns at 8:42 pm

3 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: October 10, 2017

  1. Brian says:

    Regarding motion 4 it was stated that Manning field athletic usage would be shared between Lowell Catholic and LHS. More downside risk by moving to Cawley.

  2. Lorraine Farmer says:

    Thank you for these City Council digests
    I do not have cable and don’t always get to the meetings
    Much appreciated!

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