Thanks to Mimi Parseghian for covering last night’s Lowell City Council meeting while I attended the screening and discussion of the Citizen Jane: Battle for the City film. Here’s Mimi’s report:
Roll Call: Eight (8) Present, David Conway is still absent due to illness.
Recognition of Lowell High School Boys Indoor Track Team for winning the Mass State Division I Champions. The Girls’ Team did quite well also. Many of the athletes were present. The team surrounded their coach Scott Ouellette when he spoke to the City Council. He expressed his appreciation for all the support that they received throughout the City. A few of the athletes spoke on behalf of the entire team. They were passionate about their sport, their team and the City. When introducing themselves, they all mentioned the neighborhood they live in and the middle school they attended. Nice touch! The team has about 180 members who are representative of the student body of the high school.
The Mayor paid tribute to Women’s Week in Lowell.
Discussion on Process and Procedure for Selection of City Manager:
Mary Callery, Human Resources for the City, explained the procedure for the last search for a city manager. This was the process used to select current City Manager Kevin Murphy. She indicated that the City Councilors had received a packet that contained the information.
Previously the City had advertised in numerous newspapers and municipal associations’ publications.
CC Edward Kennedy suggested that the same procedure be implemented. That is to send ads to various newspapers, city website and in-house distribution. The newspapers previously used were the Sun, Globe, Herald, Springfield Republican, Khmer Post, Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) and the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).
CC Kennedy asked if we had to pay for all ads in all of these publications. The answer was yes.
He then suggested that the ads go in the Globe, to the MMA and another publication selected by HR.
CC Rita Mercier then spoke. She stated “Let’s not have a charade.” She stated that she asked a particular individual if she was interested in the position, and the person responded “yes.”
She then added “two of my colleagues would not be running for that position” if the position the person currently held was not going to be vacant.
She asked that the motion be amended to post the position internally for 2 weeks. Then have the Mayor call the person.
K. Cirillo stated this is “not a farce”; it is a very important process. We need to look for the right person. Give many people the opportunity to apply.
J. Leahy: This time is unique. Someone from this City, more than qualify to fill position is interested. Do not see necessity for an all-points bulletin? It is different because there are many current projects in the City, especially the school. This person knows the City and has a vested interest. Let’s just put it on City website. I learned this past term that having a local resident who has a vested interest makes a world of difference.
CC J. Millinazo: I will support CC Mercier’s motion. Question to City Solicitor: Are we putting our federal and state grants at risk by not having a wide search? Answer: No, not that I am aware. HR also replies that no, not as far as she knows.
CC V. Nuon: “Let’s not spend much money on advertisements. Although knowing that we have a senator interested, there are still some people that may come up. It is important that the City knows that it is not a done deal. [During CC Nuon’s comments on not a done deal, I heard someone say, “yes it is.”] CC Nuon concluded by stating that he public should be able to send questions.
CC J. Leahy: We still can do interview. We have someone who we know is very interested in. Do not think we should spend a lot of money on advertising.
CC E. Kennedy: In order to do interviews you need applicants. They will only apply if the position is important. The process is important; the people expect it. Granted there may be a candidate that is the front runner, however, there are a lot of issues to be discussed; such as salary and contract. We will not know that if we do not have an interview process. We do not need to spend $5,000, but if we just post it downstairs, we are not doing our due diligence. That turns into a charade.
CC R. Elliott: We need to go through the process. We always did. It is the right thing to do. We need to go through a public process. We need to understand what is the vision? What are the issues? What are the solutions to those issues? What is the experience that is brought to the position?
Those days of opening a newspaper are long gone. People who want to be city manager go on websites, such as the MMA and ICMA. There is little cost and it is timely. I support going with the full process. We can do it in timely manner. Posting, get resumes, send to City Council, look at them for week, send recommendation to clerk, give 3 top candidates, set interviews for following week.
CC R. Mercier: I am not winning here but I am not supporting the process. I feel bad for the person who applied from Holyoke or the woman who may applies from Winchendon. I am trying to save $5,000. Read the paper. Go ahead and have your search.
CC K. Cirillo: I will give each applicant equal measure. I would not feel bad for them.
CC J. Milinazzo: Lets put an ad in MMA and ICMA and Khmer Post. I change my vote to the full process.
CC E. Kennedy: Ask for vote on CC Mercier’s amendment. Fails 6 – 2; CC Mercier and CC Leahy vote in favor.
Main Motion is presented: Proceed with prior fashion and put ad in Globe, MMA, ICMA, Khmer Post, City Website and internal distribution.
CC J. Leahy: Why are we not putting in Lowell Sun? Cannot exclude a paper.
HR: Make a suggestion put out there for 2 weeks on MMA, which is distibuted to various web sites.
Mayor: I believe in the process. We have to demonstrate to the public that we have a process.
Agreed to following;
Two (2) weeks posting. Post it tomorrow, Feb 28, to March 14.
Advertise on City’s website, MMA website, internal distribution
Resumes will be distributed to the Council by mail by the weekend following March 14, 2018.
By March 20, Councilors will have to give their choices for interviews
March 25 to 29 will be the window for interviews with the selection made by March 29, 2018, although that date may be adjusted.
Vote: 7 for, 1 against (CC R. Mercier)
The law firm hired to sue in regards to the opioid crises will be making a presentation next Tuesday or following Tuesday to explain process. Full discussion by City Council delayed until attorneys come.
Downtown Business meeting. City had a previous meeting to ascertain the needs of the downtown area. Another meeting has been set up for Monday, March 5. Property and business owners are invited to come; DPD and other City Departments will be present. CC J. Milinazzo stated that he will wait to schedule a meeting of the Downtown Subcommittee until this meeting has taken place.
Five Year Crime Statistics: After City Manager Murphy remarks regarding how well the City is doing combating crime based on those statistics, he invited Lowell Police Department Chief William Taylor to address the City Council to discuss the report as well as the recent shootings.
The Chief mentioned that we have had “tremendous positive progress,” overall the trend (declining crime rate) is good; a generational all-time low. He reminded the Councilors that the city is diverse, a population of 110,000, an urban environment, and a congested housing situation. Regarding the two shootings, although he cannot speak about the specifics, the first was a random and savage incident resulting from a traffic dispute. The second incident was a bit more problematic. There is an on-going aggressive investigation. The LPD officers heard the gun shot before the calls came in and quickly responded. They apprehended two individuals who were leaving the scene and charged them with illegal possession of a firearm. A third individual is still being sought.
In answering a question about a “gun buy back” program, the Chief indicated that in conjunction with students and staff at LHS and with the financial participation of the religious community, they brought back about 30 guns last time such an effort took place.
He also explained in detail the training received by officers and the response strategy regarding an active shooter situation. Nine (9) armed resource officers are assigned to the city’s schools.
Lowell High Head of Schools Marianne Busteed then spoke. She mentioned that the Florida shooting had created a lot of anxiety in the students. They are scared and feel overwhelmed. They will be given a more formal forum to discuss their concerns. Administrators are now reviewing how to support the national March 14 walkout protesting lack of gun legislation.
Students care. We have made a number of announcements and have sent notices to parents. See something, say something; hear something, say something. People tend not to tell on each other. We’re trying to change the culture. We want to make sure the students have a voice.
Educational Partnership Sub-Committee Report: CC E. Kennedy reported that they are working to have Lowell designated by UNESCO as a Global Learning City. Professor John Wooding of UMass Lowell gave a presentation on the plans to have a city-wide festival in May. This will be the beginning of working towards that designation. Prof. Wooding has much of the planning underway. Perhaps one day, Lowell can host the UNESCO Global Learning City Conference.
Councilor Karen Cirillo Request City Manager Explore Feasibility of Implementing “Paws to Read” Program at the Pollard Memorial Library. Passed. The “Paws to Read” Program involves children who are learning to read and pets.
Councilor Karen Cirillo Request City Manager Provide a Report Regarding Road and Sidewalk Upgrades in Acre; in and Around Mt. Washington St., Merrimack St., (Sizzling Kitchen) and Market St. Passed.
Councilor Karen Cirillo Request City Manager Provide a Report Regarding Spring Cleaning Procedures Throughout the City. Passed.
Councilor Rodney Elliott Request City Manager Provide a Status Report Regarding Inspection of Multi-Family per City Ordinance. Passed.
Councilor Ed Kennedy Request City Manager Instruct Perkins Eastman Include an Active Shooter Detection System (Similar to Methuen High School System) as Part of the Plans for the New High School and Recommend that the Superintendent of Schools Consider Similar Systems for Other Schools within the City.
CC E. Kennedy expressed frustration regarding the lack of action from Congress regarding guns. It is a sad day when we have to turn our schools into fortresses, he mentioned but this effort is timely in that we are going to build a new high school. He is interested in the cost and would like a report.
CC R. Mercier: She mentioned that she has spoken to people who are familiar with the system; it is high quality but expensive.
CC K. Cirillo: It is a good motion. How do you put a price on safety?
CC E. Elliott: Asked about the Safety Task Force; City Manager responded that they will receive a report shortly.
Chief Taylor was asked to give his opinion. He mentioned that this system will not prevent shooting but will identify the location of the shooter. He also said it was expensive.
Councilor Ed Kennedy Request City Manager Instruct the Law Department to Begin Procedures and Preparation Necessary for the Eminent Domain Taking of 75 Arcand Drive.
CC E. Kennedy: We need to make the preparation to have everything ready by June to begin the process.
CC R. Mercier: How can we determine the cost of relocation?
CC J. Millinazzo: That is the intent of the motion. Part of the procedure to gather information we need by June.
CC R. Elliott: Support if it is to gather information. We need to have prefer option; 2 of the 3 have an eminent domain requirement.
CC E. Kennedy: At the last meeting of the School Building Committee, Skansa needed to do testing; it would be good if the city had possession of the property. Today we are not voting to do eminent domain but to prepare to do eminent domain. We are hoping to go to the MSBA in June.
In response to CC Kennedy’s question, City Manager Murphy mentioned that there will be more community meetings; one beginning of April and one end of April. The Manager wanted to make sure we had actual information before the meetings and made sure everyone was up to date.
He mentioned that Assistant City Solicitor Elliott Velosso is in the process of putting together a report regarding the eminent domain process and it will be issued to the Councilor shortly.
CC Kennedy and CC Elliott had an exchange regarding semantics of the motion. It was agreed to delay action until next week at which time the Velosso report should be ready.
Councilor John Leahy Request City Manager Place Duren Avenue on Paving List for 2018. Passed. Residents came to speak in front of City Council regarding their street. City Manager mentioned that a report will be submitted shortly with the list of streets to be paved.
Councilor John Leahy Request Neighborhoods Sub-Committee Begin Discussion Regarding Residential Parking Program throughout the City. Passed.