Mimi Parseghian watched last night’s Lowell City Council meeting and shares her notes and observations:
Lowell City Council Meeting Notes
By Mimi Parseghian
Tonight’s City Council meeting began with the “suspension of the rules” to allow an item to be taken up out of order: a presentation by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). DOT had over half a dozen staff members present to review planned and current projects as well as those that may be in the planning phase. The Council received a handout to go along with the Power Point Presentation.
The major news is that DOT has selected a firm to design the permanent bridge that will replace the Rourke Bridge. They have funding for the design but not yet for the construction. They believe that currently the new bridge will be $70 million. In answering a question on the timetable, the whole process will take about 10 years.
At 7 o’clock, the detailed presentation which included a Question & Answer period was recessed for the Public Hearing portion of the agenda began.
Public Hearing: The first was the ordinance to amend and add new article on Pilot Bicycle Share Service, which unanimously passed. The second and third were from Verizon and they passed and were referred to the Wire Inspector for a Report and Recommendation.
At the conclusion of the Public Hearings, the Q & A resumed.
The motions that were not taken up two weeks ago due to the time constraints were voted on.
Councilor V. Nuon: “Request City Manager schedule a Public Meeting with new Police Superintendent as soon as possible after the hiring.” Since motion was filed 2 weeks ago, the City Manager’s office already began to plan for the public meeting. It will take place September 18th at 6:00 p.m. at the Senior Center.
Councilor J. Milinazzo: “Request City Manager meet with the Director of the Middlesex Shelter and neighborhood representatives to discuss illegal activities taking place outside and adjacent to the shelter.” Councilor Milinazzo described what he witnessed recently early in the morning outside the shelter. A letter from the school located on Jackson Street was read and a parent of students addressed the Council. Neighboring groups and businesses on that street will be invited to meetings.
Councilor J. Milinazzo: “Request City Manager provide updated report regarding trash violations and fines collected to date.” Calls are coming to Councilors about barrels left outside and other violations.
Councilor K. Cirillo: “Request City Manager have proper department install signage of updated parking rates replacing the old signage in the parking garages.” New signage already up listing the revised rates.
Councilor K. Cirillo: “Request Environment & Flood Issues SC have the Lowell Sustainability Council present the Solarize Lowell Program.”
Councilor K. Cirillo: “Request City Manager have proper department repair the perimeter fence at Eagle Park.” Neighbor of the park addressed the Council. Councilor R. Mercier reminded everyone that she had brought forth a similar motion and the City informed her that the fence belonged to the neighbors not the City. It was decided to fix the fence once and for all.
A) Parking Rate Signage: Signs have been updated to reflect new parking rates.
B) Davidson Street Garage: “DPD and the Parking Department have done a very preliminary review of the site’s potential, and it appears the construction of an approximately 1,000 space parking garage seems feasible at-a-glance…In order to move this project forward, we were successful in getting the following earmark included in the Economic Development Bill: $3,000,000 shall be expended for the City of Lowell for the design and engineering of a 1,000 space parking garage on the site of a current surface parking lot The City will continue to work with the Delegation to advocate for this funding to be included in future capital spending plans.”
C) Mental Health Resources: Councilors expressed their concern for lack of facilities with beds to provide the necessary service for those who are in need. City Manager Eileen Donoghue reported that Bournewood had received the license to operate the former Solomon Mental Health facility on Varnum Avenue but it is not known when operations will begin.
D) Butler School Building: The white structure located on Gorham Street in front of the Butler School has been sold and resold recently. The current owner has plans to rehab/rebuild the structure for residential use.
E) 29 Frothingham Update: This topic once again dominated the Council meeting. The 10-page report did not satisfy the Council’s questions and concerns. According to the City Acting-Inspector, the house complies with the state sanitary code. However, the proper permits were not acquired to refinish the basement. The owner will need to do that and rebuild according to code.
The Councilors, one after another, questioned how can so many unrelated people live in one house or how can so many cars can be associated with that home?
In his responses, Director of Development Services Eric Slagle stressed the laws and codes that pertain to assessing violations. He also focused on the facts and information at hand. The Councilors were critical of the lack of resolution and the time it is taking to address the neighbors’ complaints. City Manager Donoghue reminded the Councilors that she became aware of this issue on July 12th and she went on to describe her Administration’s actions to date. The City’s Acting-Inspector was invited to attend the next meeting to answer the City Council questions.
F) Andover St Crossing at Douglas Rd
G) Human Rights Commission: The Council agreed with DPD Director, Diane Tradd’s recommendation to “combine the Immigration Assistance Commission and the Diversity Council and brand this new council as a Human Rights Council.” A motion was passed asking the Administration to find the pathway to establish this Council.
H) Excavation of Recently Paved Streets: The new City Engineer Christine Clancy, who has been on the job for one month, was introduced and her replies to the Council questions were extensive and knowledgeable
I) Bike Share: The ordinance was passed earlier on the agenda. The City Manager mentioned that community members, bicycle advocates and the University participated in the drafting of this ordinance. She also mentioned that we will pretty soon see the bicycles throughout downtown.
J) Public Meeting with Superintendent Richardson Residents and organizations will have an opportunity to meet and hear newly appointed Police Superintendent Kelly Richardson.
K) Update – Downtown Upper Floor Commercial Vacancy Motion The rate has been revised to a 21.45% rate.
VOTES FROM THE CITY MANAGER:
The City accepted a $7,500 donation from the Digital Credit Union (DCU) to be used for Fire Department. The LFD will use those funds to replace their old Zodiac rescue boats.
The Council approved to expand the City’s Community Choice Power Supply Program. The current plan does not contain components for the City to oversee the energy efficiency component. This is currently undertaken by National Grid. The DPD will now with the assistance of a consultant put together a plan and present it to the City Council. Once that is approved, it will be forwarded to the State.
The following three motions were introduced and approved:
Councilor R. Elliott: Request City Manager provide an update regarding status on the implementation of marijuana licenses.
Councilor R. Elliott: Request City Manager provide an update on Pemberton Street.
Councilor V. Nuon: Request City Manager have proper department clean two or three catch basins on Suffolk Street closest to Market Street intersection.
The Council adjourn to go into Executive Session to discuss the voting-rights lawsuit against the City.