Lowell City Council meeting: Dec 4, 2018

Notes from tonight’s (relatively uneventful) Lowell City Council meeting.

ROLL CALL

MAYOR’S BUSINESS

Designation – Lowell as a National Wildlife Refuge. 80% of Americans live in cities but have little contact with wildlife refuges. This grant program helps highlight work done in cities (especially here by Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust) to expose people to nature within cities. Lowell is now one of only 29 cities in America with this designation.

Presentation – City of Lights Parade Awards. Greater Lowell Technical School won award for best float. Shane’s Anti-Bullying Team won community service award. Troop 7 of Boy Scouts won most festive float award. Lowell High and Middlesex Community College also won awards. Other awards were given to downtown businesses.

[Motion taken out of order] C. Conway – Req. City Mgr. provide a report regarding the Joseph Cady Bicycle Race held at Shedd Park on 11/18/2018; include estimated costs to repair the damaged areas of the route to its original condition. Council directs City Manager to produce a report on what happened and how to prevent it from recurring in the future.

[Another item taken out of order] ORDERS FROM THE CITY MANAGER

Order-60 Day Trial-Maryl Drive. This is a small street that connects Rogers and Fairmount streets. It has a huge amount of cut-through traffic that is a safety hazard. Many residents speak of the problems this poses. The proposal is to restrict access to Meryl to residents only. Councilors promise residents in attendance that if this doesn’t work they will try something else.

CITY CLERK

Minutes of Public Safety SC November 20th; City Council Meeting November 20th; Neighborhoods SC November 26th, for acceptance. Accepted.

GENERAL PUBLIC HEARINGS

Vote-Adopt the Minimum Residential Factor for Fiscal Year 2019. Sue LeMay, chair of Board of Assessors, urges the council to adopt this. No other speakers for the public hearing. Council adopts it unanimously (Councilor Milinazzo absent tonight due to his mother’s passing – Council held moment of silence at start of meeting).

Documents

Loan Order-Wastewater Treatment Bond 450,000. This will help with flood mitigation and also with required separation of sewage and rain water. Allowed.

Ordinance-Amend Ch. 56 entitled Personnel by amending various sections. Passes.

COMMUNICATIONS FROM CITY MANAGER

Motion Responses (some accepted without comment)

A) Upkeep of School Grounds

B) No Turn on Red Boylston and Rogers

C) School Zone Speed Limits – Legislature has authorized municipalities to reduce speed limit from 30 to 25 mph. Question on how to inform/remind drivers that the speed limit is now 30 mph because many drive so much faster than that.

D) Lighting along river and canal walkways throughout the City. Leader of downtown residents association and a representative from the city were doing a walk-through tonight to identify lights that are not working. City will then contact the responsible organization.

E) Fence at Eagle Park

F) Lighting at Fort Hill Park

G) Fire Station Washer Ejector Units – all fire stations have working washing machines that will remove soot and contaminants from equipment.

H) LPD School Crossing Guards – recently bought hand-held stop signs for crossing guards. Difficult to hire enough crossing guards. Chief of police says biggest problem is distracted driving by people texting. Says police are putting priority on issuing tickets for texting and driving.

I) Senior Center Bus – sounds like a new bus for seniors.

Informational Reports

J) MassDOT Hearing for River Road Project

K) Capital Needs

Communication-Appoint Mary Donnelly and Beverly Gonsalves to Council on Aging

VOTES FROM THE CITY MANAGER

Vote-Authorize Mgr. Ex. MOU MVEA II 7.1.18-6.30.21

Vote-Authorize Mgr. Ex. MOU MVEA IIP 7.1.18-6.30.21

Vote-Authorizing the filing of Special Legislation to add 3 associate members to the Conservation Commission. Why? Sometimes difficult to reach a quorum. By adding associate members should address that. Passes unanimously.

ORDINANCES FROM THE CITY MANAGER

Ordinance-Amend Ch 290 Zoning by extending the Regional Retail District to include 55, 75 and 77-81 Phoenix Avenue – referred to public hearing on January 29, 2019.

Ordinance-Amend Ch. 9, Article V Planning Board, s. 9-15 by increasing Associate Members from one to two – referred to public hearing on January 29, 2019.

REPORTS (SUB/COMMITTEE, IF ANY)

Neighborhoods SC November 26, 2018. Report by Councilor Cirillo. Much discussion at subcommittee meeting on preparing for snowy weather. Lowell High Junior ROTC does volunteer snow shoveling.

PETITIONS

Claim – (1) Personal Injury.

Misc. – Eduardo Beato request reimbursement for towing charges.

Misc. – Wendy Blom (Ex. Dir. Lowell Telecommunications Corporation) request installation of overhanging sign at 246 Market Street.

National Grid/Verizon NE – Request installation of new pole at 198 Riverside Street and Sarah Avenue.

Verizon NE – Request installation of underground conduit to replace overhead services at 165 Thorndike Street and Highland Street.

CITY COUNCIL – MOTIONS (Motions all were passed with minimal discussion).

Mercier – Req. City Mgr. have City Solicitor draft the proper vote on a resolution in opposition by City Council of the FCC proposed rule to cut 5% funding for public access stations.

Kennedy – Req. City Mgr. consider entering an Energy Savings Performance Agreement aimed at reducing energy costs in all school and municipal buildings and using those savings to pay for capital improvements and repairs.

Kennedy – Req. City Mgr. instruct the Transportation Engineer to review the efficiency of the traffic light sequencing along Route 113-VFW Highway—Route 38 traffic corridor.

Kennedy – Req. School Department and/or Law Department provide the Council with a copy of the “soon to be completed” fiscal audit of the School Department.

Kennedy/C. Cirillo – Req. City Mgr. take the necessary steps to install a water-level gauge at the Pawtucket Falls.

Samaras – City Mgr. place Starr Avenue on the paving list.

Samaras – Req. City Mgr. instruct proper departments prepare traffic mitigation plans in response to anticipated opening of stores selling recreational cannabis. Patriot (on Industrial Ave), an existing medical marijuana store, has received a retail license and expects to open at same location in early 2019. Part of their process is to file a traffic mitigation plan.

ANNOUNCEMENTS – by Manager Donoghue – last time for picking up yard waste is next week. Also, next Tuesday from 4 to 6pm, there is a Holiday Open House at City Hall. Everyone is invited to attend.

ADJOURNMENT at 8:53 pm.

2 Responses to Lowell City Council meeting: Dec 4, 2018

  1. Brian says:

    The residents of Maryl Dr don’t own the street and should not be able to make it private. Is this even legal? Is this enforceable?

    A ton more neighborhood people will be upset by this trial than the 8 households directly affected by this. Will Mansur St residents band together and make it private?

    Why didn’t the traffic engineer, Natasha Vance, recommend a “Local Traffic Only” sign? She seems to be in over her head.

  2. Paul Early says:

    Brian, I agree with you completely on this, although I am not at all surprised. The city seems ready to give away public thoroughfares or public easements, for example the Princeton Street fiasco over in Spaghettiville. This means that there is no way to easily avoid/detour around the Moore and Gotham Street intersection when flooding or other emergencies happen. The closest route no is to go back to the Newhall/Watson Street and Lawrence.

    I have also see the city give away or allow landholders to take public easements so that they can improve their yard or their landholding. Frequently I see immediate neighbors speak on such petitions, but I never hear discussion on the effect on the city traffic as a whole. One of the most common complaint I hear in Lowell is about how bad the traffic is and that the lights need to be timed… The way to help improve traffic flow is to have a robust network of streets.

    To this point, in New York City during the 1970s-1990s streets were in horrible shape. The city became afraid to shutdown streets in order to repave them. A traffic model was created which indicated that it would be OK. The city started started the repair work. In the process they completely shutdown some streets. What they discovered was that occasionally traffic frequently did not degrade too much, and even occasionally improved somewhat. The reason the determined that this was true was because of the complexity of NYC’s street pattern.

    Lowell is not NYC and we do not have a very robust street network. Much damage was done to our network due to Urban Renewal and we continue to degrade and even make it harder to improve the network today by closing off streets or giving away easements. This is bad for emergency situations and frequently for day to day events. Why is the traffic so bad along the Merrimack River? Is it that we have only six river crossings that forces all the Northbound or Southbound traffic two a few focal points? We should be encouraging the city to build out most of the easements so that we can have a more robust traffic network. The more options we have as pedestrians, drivers, bicyclists or riders, the freer traffic will flow and the more able our transportation network can react to snarls or emergencies.

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