Lowell City Council meeting: January 15, 2019

ROLL CALL – all present

MAYOR’S BUSINESS

Presentation – Solarize Lowell. Update by Jay Mason, Chair of Sustainability Council. We’re living in a climate crisis. We have to move to clean energy. Renewable energies like solar and wind are the way to do this. Our carbon emissions are “cooking our planet.” This is pure scientific fact; it’s not opinion. Lowell gets it. Introduces Michaela Hondros McCarthy, co-solar coach for Solarize Lowell program which is a partnership between the city of Lowell, the Massachusetts clean energy session, volunteers, and Revision Energy (the designated installer). She says the use of heat pumps and solar panels is a good investment whether you believe in climate change or not.

Mayor asks City Manager to give update on burst pipe at Greenhalge School. City made a full response. The school re-opened today after a tremendous amount of work done yesterday. Most of the damage was to the ceiling panels. Repairing damage should not be too expensive. There are remote alarms that notify people of a lack of heat. Now they’re looking at similar alarms for water leaks.

CITY CLERK

Minutes of Transportation SC January 7th; City Council Special Meeting January 8th; City Council Meeting January 8th, for acceptance.

COMMUNICATIONS FROM CITY MANAGER

Motion Responses

A) Motion Response – Response to Violence in the City

B) Motion Response – Boylston St. Bicycle Safety. Traffic engineer speaks on this motion. Suggests traffic calming measures but also a shared-use path for bikes and pedestrians which would create a physical barrier between them and the vehicular traffic. She says there should be a bicycling master plan for the city.

Informational Reports

C) Informational Report – MSBA Accelerated Repair Program Application Update. The application period closes on February 15. To proceed into this program requires votes from the city council and from the school committee (see 9 votes listed below). Most of these involve repairs to roofs and boilers. There is no limit to how many applications you can submit. If the state approves these applications, the city can get 80% reimbursement. Conor Baldwin explains that this will run along with the city’s capital plan. There will be separate loan orders for these projects.

Communication-Reappoint Richard Lockhart to Historic Board (Planning Board Rep). passes unanimously

Communication – City Manager request Out of State Travel (4) LPD. Passes unanimously.

VOTES FROM THE CITY MANAGER (All nine school repair votes taken together and pass unanimously).

Vote-Authorize Superintendent File Statement of Interest to MSBA-Abraham Lincoln Elementary School

Vote-Authorize Superintendent File Statement of Interest to MSBA-Dr. Gertrude M. Bailey Elementary School

Vote-Authorize Superintendent File Statement of Interest to MSBA-Fredrick T. Greenhalge Elementary School

Vote-Authorize Superintendent File Statement of Interest to MSBA-James F. Sullivan Middle School

Vote-Authorize Superintendent File Statement of Interest to MSBA-James S. Daley Middle School

Vote-Authorize Superintendent File Statement of Interest to MSBA-Lowell High School Freshman Academy

Vote-Authorize Superintendent File Statement of Interest-Pawtucketville Memorial Elementary School

Vote-Authorize Superintendent File Statement of Interest-S. Christa McAuliffe Elementary School

Vote-Authorize Superintendent File Statement of Interest-STEM Academy at Rogers School

Vote-Authorize Manager Accept Gift of 5,000 from Friends of Lowell Council on Aging of 5,000 for use towards purchasing new bus for Senior Center

Vote-Authorize Manager Ex. License Agreement Lowell Telecommunications Corp.-246 Market St. overhanging sign

Vote-Authorize Manager Ex. License Agreement Purple Carrot Bread Co LLC-107 Merrimack St. overhanging sign

REPORTS (SUB/COMMITTEE, IF ANY)

Zoning SC January 15, 2019. Subcommittee Chair Milinazzo gives a report on tonight’s meeting. Says 60 people were in attendance. Listened to debate on proposal. Concludes there needs to be a better enforcement mechanism of existing and new rules to improve conditions in neighborhoods. He believes they are making some progress and asks for patience from council colleagues as they continue to work on this. Councilor Elliott says this has been going on for months and months. We’ve received many complaints about boarding houses in the neighborhoods around the college. The neighborhood groups emphasize the need for a better mechanism for enforcing existing rules.

PETITIONS

Misc. – Minas Lunch Corporation (Nilo Cunha) request installation of (3) 15 Minute Parking signs 191 Appleton Street.

National Grid/Verizon NE – Request installation of new utility pole and underground conduit at 97 Tanner Street.

CITY COUNCIL – MOTIONS

Councilor Kennedy/Councilor Cirillo – Request City Manager have the proper department provide the City Council with a list of all City owned and State owned pedestrian crossing signs. Councilor Cirillo explains this motion came from concern that pedestrian crossing lights are not working. We should know who is responsible for which signs.

Councilor Cirillo – Request City Manager have proper department inspect all City owned pedestrian crossing signs to see if they are functioning correctly and produce a timeline as to repairing the signs that are not.

Councilor Cirillo – Request City Manager contact the State to inspect all State owned pedestrian crossing signs to see if they are functioning correctly and produce a timeline as to repairing the signs that are not.

Councilor Cirillo – Request City Manager direct the proper department to replant, in the Spring, the cherry blossom trees outside of the Leo Roy Garage.

Councilor Elliott – Request City Council vote to place a moratorium on any additional Host Community Agreements on any marijuana cultivation or medical distribution facilities in the City of Lowell. Judith Durant speaks on the motion. Says we have just one medical distribution center in Lowell that was opened in 2016. There haven’t been any problems with it. Wonders if the motion is more focused on recreational marijuana facilities. The city voted in the statewide referendum in favor of having these. Says the city has agreed to take five of these facilities. Says the process is moving very slowly anyway so why do we want a moratorium on the rest of them. If we only have the one already agreed to (on Industrial Ave) open up, we will have a traffic problem. Says this motion usurps the authority of the City Manager who has been empowered with deciding who gets the licenses. Councilor Elliott agrees that the authority lies with the City Manager but the council represents the residents of the city. Says there is a lot of confusion over the host community agreements. Councilor Leahy asks the City Manager about medical marijuana. City Manager says there are three types of facilities: retail, medical and cultivation. There are two medical facilities licensed but only one, Patriot, has opened. Patriot also has the only cultivation facility. Patriot has gotten a host community agreement for retail but that’s under review by the state commission. There is no tax the city gets from medical marijuana although Patriot has a $3mil payroll in the city so they employ a lot of people. The city would get taxes from cultivation facilities. When the council addressed this with zoning, the council allowed cultivation in industrial zoned areas and did not place a limit on the number of cultivator entities that could open. Eric Slagle explains that cultivation sights are “a good bang for our buck” because the public does not have access to them and they create a lot of jobs. This would also revive some of our unused industrial space. Manager Donoghue says several proposed applicants have held public meetings even though they don’t have host community agreements yet. (She adds that the proposal for the corner of Stedman and Westford streets has been abandoned by the developer). State law requires Lowell to have a minimum of 5 retail marijuana facilities (this is based on the number of liquor stores in the city). Council voted to limit to 5 and not more. Councilor Nuon says a report on the existing medical and cultivation facilities from a few weeks ago reported no problems with either of them. Councilor Nuon says he trusts the City Manager to do the right thing so he opposes the moratorium. Mayor Samaras says he opposes marijuana sales in any form but that’s what the people voted for so we should be bound by that. He believes this motion interferes with the City Manager’s authority to manage this. The councilors have plenty of opportunity to give input but the correct process is in the hands of the city manager. He asks for a roll call on this. Councilor Kennedy says that a number of communities have enacted moratoriums, but that’s because they have not completed their zoning. The moratoriums also run out at the end of the year. He’s concerned about the revenue that can come into the city from these facilities. He says the council has already considered the zoning in a very thoughtful way. He doesn’t think that this motion does anything to help the city. Roll call. Motion fails with Elliott, Mercier and Conway voting for and other six councilors voting against.

Councilor Conway – Request City Manager have proper department prepare a traffic safety study regarding the intersection of Foster and Westford Streets.

Mayor Samaras – Request City Auditor provide a written explanation and report for noncompliance issues found during the recent school department audit as pertaining to the City’s rules, regulations and ordinances. The Mayor explains that the council’s job is to provide oversight, but it’s not expected that councilors should look at every transaction during the fiscal year to determine whether state law and ordinances are being followed. The audit of the school department revealed that they were not being followed. He directs comments to city auditor saying that in the past, the city auditor had said the school department was following the law and would finish with a surplus. He wants a written explanation of why that happened. Councilor Kennedy supports the motion but says he was very disappointed in the outside audit of the school department. Councilor Milinazzo says he supports the motion but is very critical of the outside audit. Says the city paid $50,000 and “got nothing.” Councilor Elliott points out that the city’s own annual audits from prior years pointed out problems with school department finances and the school department didn’t correct them. Roll call. Motion passes 8 to 1 (Leahy voting no).

Mayor Samaras – Req. City Council draft a resolution in support of Massachusetts Senate Docket 101, an act providing rightful opportunities and meaningful investment for successful and equitable education, also known as the Education Promise Act. Citizen speaker, Ty Chum, speaks in favor of the motion. Mayor Samaras says the state support provided to the city for education is now inadequate. Asks that the city solicitor draft a resolution for the council to vote on. Councilor Kennedy says as the state senator, he is a co-sponsor of this legislation. He thanks the mayor for filing this motion and asks the mayor to make the same motion before the Lowell school committee. Kennedy hopes every school committee and board of selectmen in the Commonwealth will vote to support this which would increase the chances of it passing.

Mayor Samaras/Councilor Nuon – Req. City Manager explore the possibility of assisting areas within Lowell National Historic Park with upkeep such as cleaning and plowing during the government shutdown. Mayor addresses City Manager, says with snow in our weekend forecast, the lack of a federal government presence in Lowell due to the government shutdown is having a detrimental impact on the quality of life in the city. Manager Donoghue says it is complicated, especially around plowing. The city can pick up trash barrels. In any case, the city is working on this.

CITY COUNCIL – EXECUTIVE SESSION

Executive Session – Regarding matter of litigation, namely Huot et al v. City of Lowell, public discussion of which could have a detrimental effect on the City’s position.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

ADJOURNMENT – Council votes to go into executive session at 9:20 pm and to adjourn the meeting from the executive session.

One Response to Lowell City Council meeting: January 15, 2019

  1. Patricia trudel says:

    I live at 21 West fifth ave. The new owners of 25 West fifth ave are trying to turn a single family home into a rooming house (4-5students). This is unacceptable in this neighborhood as it is ALL single family homes. Not to mention this a very small street and the owner is offering 3 parking spots We cannot have double sided parking on this street It is too small and also very dangerous for children in this neighborhood as we are in between 2 parks also he had put in a second full bath in which a permit was never displayed. I hope you will take time to consider our situation sincerely Patricia Trudel

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