Lowell City Council Meeting: Feb 14, 2019

Date:        February 14, 2019 (Postponed from February 12, 2019)

ROLL CALL: Mayor Samaras absent. Councilor Mercier presiding.

[Item taken out of order] Vote-Authorize Submission of Schematic Design to MSBA. Presentation by architects/engineers of new/rehabbed Lowell High. The 1922 building will be a “like new” renovation. Emphasizes that while it is a big project, it is really several smaller projects connected together. There have been two independent cost estimates. Estimated project cost is $343mil with city’s share at $129mil. Because a lot of existing building will be utilized, the city gains considerable savings in the renovation space (the 1922 building). A savings of $131/sq ft for renovated building vs the new building. Expect April 24 to be the council vote approving this design and cost estimates. Vote to authorize submission to MSBA of this design. Three people registered to speak: First is a representative of Cobblestones who says they do not seek to leave downtown saying the Lowell Sun article is misleading. Cobblestones has concerns about designs of new high school and its potentially devastating effects on Cobblestones’ business. Asks for assistance to find pro-active ways for Cobblestones to deal with the impact of high school construction. Asks many questions about the impact of construction process. Next speaker is Richard Haley. Operates “The Keep” on Gorham Street (formerly Ricardo’s). Is speaking to support Cobblestones. Next person opts not to speak. Councilor Kennedy observes that motion on the floor is to send this to MSBA. If that passes, he will make an additional motion to have the manager address the concerns of Cobblestones. Manager Donoghue says the city has been working very closely with Cobblestones for months trying to address their concerns; we value their longevity and will continue to work with them. Councilor Elliott says he spoke with Ms. Plath today. She said their main concern is parking and they feel not much progress has been made. Manager Donoghue says it is a couple of years until the impact occurs so there is time to continue working on this. Councilor Mercier (relinquishing the chair to Councilor Elliott) says she hopes that Cobblestones is supported by the city. She then says she accepts defeat in the fight over saving the dentist offices so now she does not want to be the one who stands in the way of renovating LHS so she will be voting yes on this project. Motion passes 8 to 0. Councilor Kennedy then moves to instruct City Manager to continue to work with Cobblestones to address parking and other concerns. Motion passes.

Still under suspension of rules, Henri Marchand speaks about Winterfest which occurs the weekend after next (Feb 22 and 23). Footprint of Winterfest will be just JFK Plaza and Arcand Drive. Urges everyone in region to come to the event.

CITY CLERK

Minutes of Transportation SC February 4th; City Council Special Meeting February 5th; City Council Meeting February 5th, for acceptance.

Vote-Cancel Council Meeting of February 19, 2019 – passes unanimously.

AUDITOR BUSINESS

Vote-Reappoint Bryan Perry to the position of City Auditor. Councilor Kennedy moves to reappoint but Councilor Milinazzo says that because Mayor Samaras is absent and because Councilor Nuon had to leave early, he would like to postpone this to the next meeting. Approved.

COMMUNICATIONS FROM CITY MANAGER

Motion Responses

Motion Response – Voting Equipment. Director of City Election Office. Councilor Leahy asks if the “poll pads” iPads used at early voting are able to display photo of voter at check in “to cut down on voter fraud.” Those iPads are not able to be used at normal elections yet, just in state or federal primaries. The election office will also take maximum advantage of state programs to help pay for new and improved voting equipment.

Motion Response – No Parking Zones on Pawtucket Blvd.

Communication-Reappoint Aurora Erickson to Historic Board-Historical Society Rep. Approved.

Communication – City Manager request Out of State Travel (1) Career Center; (1) Law Dept.

VOTES FROM THE CITY MANAGER

Vote-Accept MGL c.40 s.5B 4th paragraph

Vote-Auth CM Ex Temp Access Agreement-150 Douglas Road-surveying services.docx

ORDERS FROM THE CITY MANAGER

Order-60 Day Trial (various)

ORDINANCES FROM THE CITY MANAGER

Ordinance-Quarterly Traffic-January 2019 – approved

RESOLUTIONS

Resolution-Support Veterans Commission by affording them notice, decisions or actions and opportunities to be heard on issues affecting vets – approved

REPORTS (SUB/COMMITTEE, IF ANY)

Public Safety SC February 12, 2019.

CITY COUNCIL – MOTIONS

C. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. have proper department consult with the gas utility company to see if possible to install gas pressure relief valve safety whistle to alert customers if gas line is over pressurized. – Councilor Elliott takes the chair. Councilor Mercier is concerned that last year’s gas explosion in Lawrence could happen in Lowell, so it’s up to the Council to do everything possible to provide for safety of citizens. She distributes some material and has an example of one that would emit a warning upon gas overpressurization. Councilor Cirillo says she has investigated this and didn’t find any evidence of it existing. The inventor is a Lowell resident who has submitted a patent application which has not been acted upon. He says it has to start somewhere and Lowell should take the lead on it. Manager Donoghue says the city will work with the gas company to assess this device. Motion passes 7 to 0.

C. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. have proper department provide a report regarding the status and progress of all sewer, water, gas and electricity tie-ins for parcels located in the Hamilton Canal Innovative District; report to include name of contractors and other interested parties as well as time lines for each utility. Councilor Mercier says she’s just looking for a report on utility tie-ins.

C. Nuon – Req. City Mgr. work with Middlesex North Register of Deeds, Richard Howe, Jr., to compile a report regarding amount of money paid to the Community Preservation Acts (CPA) by Lowell residents. Referred to next City Council meeting (Councilor Nuon had to depart early).

C. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. provide update regarding renovations at the Lowell police department headquarters. When Manger Donoghue was State Senator, she had funds for design of a new police station placed in a state bond bill. She said she will look into it.

C. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. provide an update regarding the previous motion to allow retired policemen to work details.

C. Milinazzo – Req. City Mgr. have the CFO prepare a report highlighting costs associated with salary and wages for the school department budget for the last 2 contract periods (6 years) including teachers, administrators, and custodial staff. Councilor Milinazzo says he filed this out of frustration at teachers’ union filing complaints about status of various buildings. Councilor would like to put this into context by getting this other information. He says it’s not as though the city is neglecting its schools. He wants to see how salaries have increased. Says it is related to the next motion. He says we have 96 school custodians which according to the Collins Report is overstaffed, but the work is not getting done. Manager Donoghue says everything on the complaint list has been addressed and repaired. New things arise from day to day but the vast majority of things complained about have already been addressed. She says there are great challenges but by no means have they been ignored. Motion passes.

C. Milinazzo – Req. City Mgr. prepare a list of work items that could potentially be completed by an outside contractor for both maintenance and custodial work throughout our municipal and school buildings. Councilor Kennedy clarifies that Collins report says city is understaffed on high skill positions and over staffed on custodial positions. Motion passes.

ANNOUNCEMENTS – Another reminder of Winterfest

ADJOURNMENT – At 8:13pm.

4 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: Feb 14, 2019

  1. Jack Walsh says:

    Election tampering is done in a variety of ways — corrupted voting machines, false communication, simple lying in information reported upstream. All those, of course, are done by politicians and their henchpersons.

    Retail, one-vote-at-a-time voter fraud is so rare that … well, you are much more likely to be killed by lightning that encounter a case.

    This is a right-wing canard that is a basic racist trope. It is repeated endlessly, and should be confronted whenever it is encountered.

  2. DickH says:

    Jack – I agree with your assessment. And thanks for confronting this groundless and very damaging assertion.

  3. Brian says:

    The problem with Cobblestones isn’t LHS but inhospitable walkability around Ladd Whitney Sq and Dutton St in general. If you look at 1960-1970’s photos Dutton St had metered parking throughout and Ladd Whitney Sq had an additional traffic island on Arcand Dr used for parking and as a safe harbor for pedestrians.

    Allowing on-street parking on all of Dutton St and Arcand Dr would make up for any lost parking at the Dental office. It would create a barrier of steel separating the sidewalk from speeding cars. It would improve the outside dining experience at Cobblestones and knit back together upper and lower Merrimack St.

    The tradeoff would be less driving lanes. For instance reducing Dutton St to 3 lanes(with a center turn lane such as on Andover St) would make this possible.

    Tre Monte, Fuse, Ramen 1981, El Potro and soon The Athenian Corner all do well without dedicated off-street parking. They are also located in on-street parking rich areas that make for great walkability.

    To see what happens to restaurants and spaces that should be thriving but continuously fail look at Kearney Sq. The corner restaurant space has scant on-street parking and bad walkability. Where we prioritize traffic throughput businesses die. And yet congestion is STILL horrible.

    Cobblestones is right to be worried about their future but blaming LHS is wrong. Will the city finally right a wrong decades in the making by boldly improving walkability in the area or will it continue the failed policy of trying to improve traffic flow – businesses and quality of life be damned?

    Sadly I think I know the answer.

  4. Pat says:

    The blame the right wing racist bit is getting old. With the hysteria surrounding Russian interference in our elections you would think more concern would be for voter fraud but I guess honesty and transparency are not part of the left wing canard

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