Lowell City Council Meeting: January 2, 2018

Minutes of Zoning SC December 12th; City Council Meeting December 12th, accepted.

Communication-Appoint Cormac Hondros-McCarthy to Sustainability Council. Appointed unanimously by council.



Councilor Mercier – Req. City Mgr. allow people of Laotian descent to acquire a site at the JFK Plaza to construct their monument. Councilor Mercier says it is a pleasure to present this motion. Two years ago when Councilor Elliott made a motion to create a monument for the Cambodian people, Councilor Mercier thought she had incorporated this request in it but there is no formal record of that. She says there are many Laotian people in Lowell who have added to the community. Council votes unanimously for the motion.

Councilor Leahy – Req. City Council take a vote regarding the location of the preferred site of Lowell High School. Councilor Leahy withdraws the motion.

Councilor Elliott – Req. City Mgr. provide a report regarding the policy of City vehicles being taken home; the number of vehicles issued to employees; and the associated costs. Councilor Elliott explains that there are many vehicles that are authorized to be taken home; he would like to document that and publicize it so that people are aware of it and that it is authorized. Motion passes.

Councilor Elliott – Req. City Mgr. provide a report on the expenditures to date regarding the feasibility study on Lowell High School and the amount reimbursed to the City from the MSBA. Councilor Elliott explains this motion is a result of him attending the MSBA meeting back in December; says it is important that everyone know these numbers, especially the reimbursement rate. Councilor Leahy asks that the report also address any credits the city should get from Skanska for problems that have arisen previously. Motion passes.

Councilor Kennedy – Req. City Mgr. and the Mayor notify the Massachusetts School Building Authority that the City Council intends to explore changing Lowell’s preferred project option for the Lowell High School building project. Councilor Kennedy explains that this will fulfill a request made by the MSBA. When asked about the word “explore” versus “intend”, Kennedy replies that the MSBA urged the city to explore other option and so exploring other options, even if they are not selected, would be in response to the MSBA request. Kennedy requests roll call. Passes unanimously.

Councilor Kennedy – Req. School Committee endorse City Council’s intent to explore changing Lowell’s preferred project option for the Lowell High School building project and direct the Superintendent to notify the Massachusetts School Building Authority of the School Committee’s endorsement. Councilor Kennedy says this is related to the previous motion. It simply asks the School Committee to take a similar vote which was also requested by the MSBA. Motion passes.

Mayor Samaras moves to suspend the rules to discuss the issue of heating at Lowell High. Manager Murphy says there were heating issues at many building in the city today. He says there were heating issues at a number of schools including Lowell High. Doesn’t want to down play it but says it is mostly caused by the frigid weather. Asks Jim Green of DPW to address the council. He says city workers have been in the building every day. They got the heat working, but then this cold wave made the problem much worse. Says the steam plant is running great. They have raised the water temperatures in the boiler. They are working on some technical issues with the 1980 building. They are waiting for some parts that are on order. The main problem in the 1980 building is that even when the heat is working OK, one of the floors will not have heat. He says most of the rooms in the 1922 building were between 65 and 70 degrees but the hallways were cold. Mayor Samaras asks about moving students to warmer space. Green says they could do that. Manager Murphy says that the School Superintendent has informed him that Lowell High will be closed tomorrow so workers can focus on the heat. DPW says everyday he has two people going to Lowell High to troubleshoot. He says many of the problems today were due to the school being closed all last week.

Mayor asks Manager about the safety of residents. Manager says that the Senior Center is open every evening and was open 24 hours per day over the weekend. He emphasizes that the Senior Center Warming Center is available to everyone, not just seniors or the homeless. Councilor Nuon asks about the library (which was closed today) and the other schools without heat. DPW says in City Hall and the Library it is a “single pipe” system which means cooler water returning to the boiler collides with the rising steam. So they reduced the temperature of the water but that led to lowering temperatures. That also led to loss of heat in the library. DPW says the city did replace boilers a number of years ago but they didn’t address the pipes and radiators because of the price involved.

Councilor Mercier says she heard on the radio that a landlord had shut off a boiler as a means of forcing a tenant to vacate an apartment. The caller was advised to call City Hall. She wants to ensure this is followed up.

Councilor Kennedy says the cold we are experiencing is unprecedented and many other communities are having trouble heating their buildings. We’ll all be glad when it’s a little warmer, but everyone should realize that the city is doing the best it can under the circumstances. But long range, the city should take steps to prevent this from happening again. He reminds everyone that the council appropriated $400,000 in capital funds for school department repairs and there is still substantial amount of that available. It should be used.

Manager reiterates that as of now, it’s just the high school that will be closed tomorrow.

Councilor Leahy asks about the parts we are waiting for at the high school. DPW says the major parts should be in this week or next. He says the boilers work fine one day and then don’t work the next. Councilor Mercier asks about rooftop units. DPW says some of the older units are waiting to be removed. Councilor Leahy asks if the expenses for these repairs will be reimbursable as part of the new renovations of the high school. Manager says no. Councilor Milinazzo asks about the Ameresco contract. He also asks about a mobile heating unit like the trailer truck-sized one that provided heat during the Lowell Auditorium renovations a number of years ago.

ADJOURNMENT – At 7:08 p.m.