Council Meeting Preview

Thanks to Mimi Parseghian for her preview of tomorrow night’s Lowell City Council meeting:

After a two week break, the Lowell City Council is back to the regular Tuesday night meeting schedule.  The November 7th agenda has only three City Council motions but quite a few of the Administration’s “motion responses.”  Although the documents have a great deal of information, I expect limited questions and discussions.  I would think the Council would want the meeting to end before 8:00 p.m. when the unofficial results of the municipal election start becoming available.

Motion Reponses

Beech Street The Administration was asked to look at reported disorderly activities at 73 – 75 Beech Street, located in Centralville. The police department met with both the landlord and residents of the area as well as assigned extra patrol to the area. As a result of those actions, “there has been no calls for service at either address.”

Effect of TIFs on Economic Development The two page response to City Council Bill Samaras’ motion asking for a report detailing the effects of Tax Increment Financing Agreements (TIFs) on the economic development in Lowell. The program allows the City to exempt “new property taxes as a result of new development and job creation as an incentive to make the project possible.” Here are the existing TIFs covered by this report:

  • Kronos – 900 Chelmsford St
  • MACOM – 100 Chelmsford St
  • Markely Group – 2 Prince Ave
  • Metrigraphics – 1001 Pawtucket St
  • Plenus Group Inc – 101 Phoenix Ave
  • Somerset Industries – 137 Phoenix Ave

Christian Hill Reservoir Passive Park  In response to City Council Jim Leary’s motion requesting the City Manager to “review potential grant opportunities to update the Christian Hill Reservoir grounds area to a passive park. The one-page response from the Department of Planning and Development included information previously provided to the City Council “regarding the possibility of filling in to create new open space in the City.”

The response outlines the work the Parks Department to transform “large areas of overgrowth into landscaped areas, which all but eliminated the illegal activities at the site.” Also, with partnering with neighborhood and gardening groups “ornamental gardens and trees, and granite benches have also been installed.”

Middlesex Street City Councilor Bill Samaras requested that the DPD create a study on how to restructure Middlesex Street between Central Street and Lord Overpass. The response focuses on the recent history of the changes to the street but I am not sure if it answers Councilor Samaras motion.

Flag Drop Box In response to a joint motion by City Councilors Rita Mercier and Rodney Elliott to look into the Feasibility Of Having A USA Flag Drop Box Located On The Grounds Of Lowell City Hall, the Greater Lowell Technical High School Metal Fabrication shop students are designing and building two metal drop boxes, one to be located at City Hall and the other at the Senior Center. The memo describes the proper way to dispose of a flag whose condition no longer makes it fitting to be displayed. Coincidentally, today I just dropped off a small flag that I found blowing in the wind. I brought it to the flag depository at Westlawn Cemetery.

Status of 318 Andover Street City Councilor Rita Mercier requested a status and update regarding the property located at 318 Andover Street. The single family home was recently visited by inspectors from Development Services. The property, which is currently vacant and has significant overgrowth, had a tax lien that was recently sold at auction. Development Services has been in contact with the Lien Holder who intends to “remediate the code violations once they have control of the property.”

Stromquist Ave and South Street 60 Day Trials A 60-day traffic order has been included to add a stop sign at the corner of Stromquist Avenue and Bowden Street. A 10 Minute Handicap Drop-off” sign at 198 South Street and move the existing handicap sign to next spot behind it The changes have been included in the 60-day traffic trial ordinances.

Central and Middle Street Recommendations Motion by Councilors John Leahy and Jim Leary “requesting a report with recommendations to resolve ongoing incidents occurring at the corner of Central and Middle Streets (in front of TD Bank building). “ The Lowell Police Department (LPD) met with managers of the Bank and Wingate Property Management, owners of the building at 45 – 50 Central Street.  As a result of those and other meetings, the LPD has placed additional police patrol in that area. “A LPD video surveillance [not covert] camera will be installed to specifically monitor the activity in the public space on Central Street from Middle to Market Streets… Suggestions on building and environmental modifications were supplied to Wingate Management.”

Polling Locations Preliminary Election Eda Matchak Director of Elections supplied the response and explanation of the confusion on polling locations prior to the preliminary election, this past September.

“As the number of registered voters within the City of Lowell continues to grow, finding adequate polling locations that fulfill accessibility and regulatory requirements is more of a challenge in some neighborhoods. Inconsistent voter turnout makes determining the functionality of a polling location an ongoing topic. Some spaces that are sufficient for the turnout during a Primary Election are not sufficient for a State or Presidential Election.

“On Tuesday, July 26, 2016, fourteen polling locations were voted on by the Election Commission for the 2016 election season. After receiving positive community feedback in 2016, the Election Commission voted on Tuesday, August 15, 2017 to continue to vote in the same fourteen locations. Therefore, no polling locations were changed for the City Preliminary and City Biennial Election.”

The confusion occurred due to an error listing the wrong voting location for 2 precincts.  It was quickly corrected and actions were taken to mediate any possible difficulties.  The Election Commission “received no reports that the misinformation, which was limited to the webpage and the newspaper, negatively affected anybody’s ability to vote in the correct location.”

LHS Ancillary Cost Comparison  Response to motion by City Councilor Jim Milinazzo to prepare a Detail List of all Estimated Costs Associated with High School Locations and the Direct Impact to the Taxpayer Including Soft Costs, Construction Costs and Ancillary or Related Costs; i.e. Article 97, Water and Sewer Upgrades, Transportation and Pedestrian Improvements, Potential Eminent Domain Costs, and Busing Costs, etc.. The 12-page report, prepared by CFO Conor Baldwin, has a lot of numbers and figures.  The key paragraph gives the estimate of the bottom line for the average tax payer:

“It is estimated, based on a number of assumptions included in this and previous reports, that the tax impact of the LHS Downtown Addition/ Renovation Option #3 – Expanded Site is $281.00 to the average single family home. For the New School Cawley Site – 5 story option, the direct tax impact to the average single family home—including all identified ancillary costs and assuming that the busing is absorbed into the school budget—would be $318.97. In order to fund the water and sewer improvements, a 2% increase to the sewer rate and a 0.9% increase to the water rate would be required to fund the capital improvements in the respective enterprise funds. If the preliminary busing plan from the School Department cannot be implemented and $3.2 million is needed to fund transportation to the Cawley site, then the direct tax impact to the average single family home would increase from $318.97 to $416.63.”

The motions are requesting information or asking for a particular service.

Jim Milinazzo: Request City Manager Provide/Ensure The Necessary Support Services To All First Responders Including Police, Fire And EMT Personnel That Were Part Of The Tragic Event Involving The Pit Bulls On Clare Street.

City Councilor John Leahy Request City Manager Have Parking Department Work With Appropriate Subcommittee Regarding Residential Parking Sticker Program.

City Councilor Jim Leary Request City Manager Report On Status Of Low-Riding Cars In The City; Report To Include Actual Massachusetts Statute Regarding Low-Riding Cars And The Enforcement Required.

One Response to Council Meeting Preview

  1. DickH says:

    This came from Mayor Kennedy over the weekend. It’s about the “LHS Ancillary Costs” item Mimi wrote about in this post.

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NOVEMBER 4, 2017

    Final Pre-Election Estimates show Cawley pricetag at least 48% higher than all Downtown Options

    LOWELL, MA—On the eve of the Lowell High School ballot referendum, official estimates from the City of Lowell administration show a wide differential in costs between project options. While the most expensive downtown option would increase the average household’s taxes by $281 per year, the Cawley Stadium plan would increase taxes by an approximate $417 annually.

    In a report written by Chief Financial Officer Conor Baldwin and approved by City Manager Kevin Murphy, the City responded to Councilor Jim Milinazzo’s October 24th motion requesting a full financial projection of the prospective high school site options. The full report is available on the City website and will be discussed at Tuesday’s council meeting. However, given that the council meeting will take place on the evening of Election Day, Mayor Edward Kennedy is sharing the details of the public report to the Lowell voters so they can make an informed decision at the polls.

    While the Cawley construction option represent a lower reimbursement rate and a higher cost to the taxpayers than the Downtown options to begin with, the additional infrastructure and recurring transportation costs are what make the disparity even starker.

    The report states:

    “It is estimated, based on a number of assumptions included in this and previous reports, that the tax impact of the LHS Downtown Addition/Renovation Option #3—Expanded Site is $281.00 to the average single-family home. For the New School Cawley Site—5-story option, the direct tax impact to the average single family home—including all identified ancillary costs and assuming that the busing is absorbed into the school budget—would be $318.97. In order to fund the water and sewer improvements, a 2% increase to the sewer rate and a 0.9% increase to the water rate would be required to fund the capital improvements in the respective enterprise funds. If the preliminary busing plan from the School Department cannot be implemented and $3.2 million is needed to fund transportation to the Cawley site, then the direct tax impact to the average single family home would increase from $318.97 to $416.63.” (Full Report Here)

    Lowell High School Options Average Tax Increase
    (including Transportation)
    Downtown Option 1 (Renovation) $255
    Downtown Option 2 (Reno/Addition) $266
    Downtown Option 3 (Reno/Addition) $281
    Cawley Site 5-Story Building $417
    Source Lowell City Manager’s Office, Memo Dated 10/31/17

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