City Council Report: Feb 2, 2020

Here are some items of interest from the Agenda for the upcoming Lowell City Council meeting followed by the MINUTES of last Tuesday’s meeting. Both are edited to emphasize Council motions and responses and other reports or items that deserve attention

Council Motions for February 4, 2020 meeting

Councilor Elliott – Req. City Mgr. have Law Dept. research the legality of placing a safe haven baby box at a Lowell fire station.

Councilor Conway – Req. City Mgr. meet with Supt. Of LPD to strategize with the State Police with the goal of re-instating or increasing the frequency of use of the Mass. State Police Sobriety Checkpoints / Impaired Driving Enforcement Mobile Unit.

Councilor Drinkwater – Req. City Mgr. provide a report on the number on new housing units that were permitted for construction in 2019, and how many are planned to meet the standard of “affordable housing” as defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Councilor Drinkwater – Req. City Mgr. provide a report on companies with current Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Agreements, including information on the amount of tax savings for the company; amount of revenue generated to the City; duration of the agreement; investment and job creation to date; and overall compliance with the terms of the TIF agreement.

Councilor Nuon – Req. City Mgr. provide an update regarding installation of lighting at Clemente Field.

Councilor Nuon – Req. City Mgr. provide an update regarding bridge repairs in the area of Sparks and Beaver Streets.

Councilor Chau – Req. City Mgr. investigate the intersection of Stedman and Westford Streets for possible safety improvements in signage or vehicular speed reduction.

Other Interesting Agenda Items

Meeting Cancellation – The Council will vote to cancel its February 18, 2020 meeting (school vacation week).

School Repairs – The council will vote to submit Statements of Interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for inclusion in its “Accelerated Repair Program” for the following schools: Daley, Greenhalge, Lincoln, McAuliffe, Rogers, Pawtucketville Memorial, McAvinnue, Moody, Murkland, Shaughnessy, Butler, Robinson, Wang and Bartlett.

Parking Kiosks – There’s a long memo from Parking Director Terry Ryan about the state of maintenance of the city’s 176 parking kiosks. Read the memo yourself but the very short version is these things are old, they haven’t been adequately maintained, they will continue to fail so users would be better off switching to the cell phone parking app until they can decide on a replacement system and funding for it.

Police Report on Violence at Bar Closing Time – The police department has a detailed report on the volume of calls answered at the time of bar closings in downtown over the past few years along with the cost of this added police presence.

Police Calls to Group Homes – there is another report detailing the volume of police responses to various Group Homes around the city.

Minutes of January 28, 2020 Council Meeting

Thanks to City Clerk Michael Geary for his comprehensive minutes of each Council meeting. The official minutes of the last Council meeting are available online, however, the following is an abbreviated version of the minutes which omits a few topics:

Councilor Conway requested moment of silence in darkened chamber for Henry Cheetham. C. Rourke requested moment of silence in darkened chamber for Mary McGovern. C. Mercier requested moment of silence in darkened chamber for Police Officer Katherine Thyne. M. Leahy requested moment of silence in darkened chamber for Gerald Cohen.

MAYOR’S BUSINESS Presentation – Fru NKimbeng of a gift to City Council from the City of Bamenda in Cameroon, Lowell’s Sister City.

In City Council, M. Leahy introduced his assistant, Karonika Brown.

COMMUNICATIONS FROM CITY MANAGER Motion Responses.

Smith Baker Center– C. Noun noted the detailed report and the work being done on the project and commented that a performance center may be best use of the property. C. Conway noted he toured the property and that there needs to be a complete clean-up of it so that it can be presented in the best light. C. Elliott noted the Blue Ribbon Committee he formed some time ago and noted the longer the building is empty the more expensive rehab will cost. C. Elliott questioned if Community Preservation money could be used on the project and if a new Request for Proposal would be needed. Manager Donoghue commented on the RFP noting the Coalition for Better Acre (CBA) was the only responder. Diane Tradd (DPD) commented on the positions of developers in the City and noted the department would continue working with them. C. Samaras noted the building has been abandoned for many years and has many restrictions. Manager Donoghue noted all options were open for the site.

Billerica St– C. Elliott noted it was a cut through street in need of signage.

VFW over Beaver Brook Bridge Update– C. Elliott noted there was a schedule in place.

LPD Wellness Programs for First Responders– C. Conway commented on the programs and the need to support personnel. Supt. Richardson (LPD) commented on the services for Officer Thyne and how the City would handle it. Supt. Richardson noted the importance of the programs and their success and further noted the help given by outside vendors. Chief Winward (LFD) commented on programs and how they are improved through time and that there is special emphasis for veterans on the force in terms of mental and physical health. C. Elliott noted the need to protect the public safety personnel.

Process to Change Charter to Allow Residents to Vote and Elect Mayor– C. Elliott commented on the process outlined in the report. Motion to refer matter to Elections SC by C. Elliott, seconded by C. Mercier. So voted. C. Samaras noted that a referendum should be before the voters and that a position of Strong Mayor should be explored as well. C. Mercier noted the report. Motion by C. Mercier, seconded by C. Elliott to include Rules SC as part of the process. So voted. C. Elliott commented that a ballot question is not needed and to have people vote is quite simple. C. Samaras noted people should have a voice. C. Elliott noted it Strong Mayor is favored then motion should be put on to address that. C. Conway noted prior request for ballot questions.

Update on Employee Incentive Program– C. Conway commented on program and its success. Manager Donoghue noted vote to re-establish program and fund same.

Motion to suspend rules and take Item #4.4 out of order to establish committee by C. Elliott, seconded by C. Conway. So voted.

Status of 246.1 Market St. – C. Elliott noted the prospects were good for the property. Manager Donoghue commented on history of the property and that new owners have applied for permits.

Update to the Master Plan– C. Nuon noted the detailed report commenting the ability to go out to the public for input with various meetings. Manager Donoghue noted all materials and notices are done in several languages.

Building Permitting– C. Elliott noted electronic process is encouraging and recognized efforts of all involved. C. Nuon noted importance of updating systems and that the benefits outweigh the costs. C. Conway commented on the need to integrate technology.

Abatement Process– C. Nuon commented on importance of knowing the process through planned informational sessions in the community.

Informational Report: HCID Update– Manager Donoghue provided updates regarding Justice Center; Lord Overpass; and garage construction. Ms. Tradd noted garage was under budget and on time. C. Elliott questioned route of construction trucks to the site. Consultant for garage project commented on issues involved and noted all traffic plans and routes are flexible. Manager Donoghue noted concerns for some truck routes into the City. C. Elliott noted best options must be used. Natasha Vance (Transportation Engineer) described the trucks and the possible routes available in the City. Manager Donoghue noted any plan needs to be flexible. M. Leahy questioned night deliveries. C. Rourke noted congestion on suggested routes. C. Chau suggested using various routes into the City. C. Mercier commented on night deliveries. Motionby C. Elliott, seconded by C. Drinkwater to refer matter to Finance SC. So voted.

Informational Report – Polling Location Change Notice – Manager Donoghue commented on issues in some polling locations and the need for other sites. Elliott Veloso (Elections) noted the changes and the approval by the Elections Commission. Atty. Veloso noted that City Hall would be site for early voting. M. Leahy commented on available parking at each location. C. Mercier supported the change in location.

Informational – Accelerated Repair Program Update – Manager introduced Alex Magee from her office to make presentation entitled “Accelerated Repair Program”. Mr. Magee commented on following topics: program specifics; projects; City’s part; evaluations; final steps; results; and future applications. C. Elliott noted favorable reimbursement by the State. Mr. Baldwin outlined debt service of loan. Manager Donoghue noted all new systems will be in the buildings resulting in cost savings. C. Conway commented on the need for the repairs and replacements. C. Conway questioned education plan during construction. M. Leahy noted the need to keep sites safe and clean and also secure warranties for work being done. Mr. Magee noted that all projects are under strict MSBA guidelines.

Motion to suspend rules by C. Mercier, seconded by C. Elliott to discuss Sullivan School. So voted. C. Mercier noted she received information regarding a serious bullying issue at the Sullivan School. C. Elliott commented that issue needs immediate attention.

Communication-Accept resignation of Melissa Desroches from Board of Parks. In City Council, Motion “To accept and place on file” by C. Conway, seconded by C. Drinkwater. So voted.

Communication-Appoint Mary Callery, Conor Baldwin and Allison Lamey to Suggestion Award Board.In City Council, read, Motion to adopt by C. Elliott, seconded by C. Mercier. Adopted per Roll Call vote 9 yeas. So voted.

ORDINANCES FROM THE CITY MANAGER 7.1. Ordinance-Amend Ch. 9 Create Art. XIV entitled Community Preservation Committee. In City Council, Given 1st Reading,Motion to refer to public hearing on February 11, 2020 at 7PM by C. Drinkwater, seconded by C. Conway. So voted.

CITY COUNCIL – MOTIONS

Councilor  Mercier – Req. City Mgr. provide a report regarding the process of revenue generated by the use of empty lots charging people to park in and around the new court house. In City Council, seconded by C. Nuon, referred to City Manager. So voted. C. Merciercommented on concern of use of empty lots for parking without permitting.

Motion to suspend rules to allow motion inadvertently left off agenda to be addressed by C. Elliott, seconded by C. Drinkwater. So voted. “C. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. provide a report regarding where the first allotment of funding under the Community Preservation Act would be used for.” In City Council, seconded by C. Nuon, referred to City Manager. So voted. C. Mercier noted that sometimes money must be spent to make money. C. Rourke requested list of possible projects. Manager Donoghue noted that there are elderly, income and commercial exemptions in the ordinance. C. Elliott noted that this is money that generates from the Registry of Deeds.

Councilor Rourke – Req. City Mgr. update Council regarding status of the Neighborhood Enhancement Enforcement Directive. In City Council, seconded by C. Conway referred to City Manager. So voted. C. Rourke noted that several properties are in disrepair and owners are not being responsible and should be called to task. Manager Donoghue noted success of prior programs and that is should be reinstated.

Councilor Conway – Req. City Mgr. meet with DPW and other departments to explore the feasibility of using a “Chip – Disc” system (A-Tags) that is currently used in New York, Boston, Cambridge and other cities to identify companies that did work for trench repair and other projects. In City Council, seconded by C. Chau, referred to City Manager. So voted. C. Conwaynoted the use of the system and its effectiveness in identifying companies.

Councilor Elliott – Req. City Mgr. have LPD provide a report regarding the number of response calls/missing persons reports from group homes throughout the City. In City Council, seconded by C. Mercier, referred to City Manager. So voted. C. Elliottnoted the issues persist and that there are a lot of resources being used at these homes.

Councilor Samaras – Req. City Mgr. develop traffic management plan and parking solutions for the opening of the new court house. In City Council, seconded by C. Chau, referred to City Manager. So voted. C. Samaras requested report as to plan and also noted concern with drivers unfamiliar with the City.

Councilor Chau – Req. City Mgr. invite Lowell General Hospital to make a presentation to the Council regarding their plans for providing health care services to the citizens of Lowell for the next two years.In City Council, seconded by C. Drinkwater, referred to City Manager. So voted. C. Chau noted the need for services in the City and also need to know where those services are being provided.

Councilor Chau – Req. City Mgr. provide a report regarding the feasibility of holding a South East Asian New Year event at the JFK Plaza in April. In City Council, seconded by C. Nuon, referred to City Manager. So voted. C. Chau noted that many smaller ethnic groups search for locations regarding celebrations. C. Nuon commented on process for hosting events and their importance in reaching out to community.

Councilor Chau – Req. City Mgr. provide an update regarding the status of signage for the area designated as Cambodia Town. In City Council, seconded by C. Elliott, referred to City Manager. So voted. C. Chau commented on the location and the need for the area to be identified. C. Elliott commented on aging signs on City property in that area. M. Leahy suggested older signs could be refurbished for this purpose.

ANNOUNCEMENTS In City Council, C. Samaras made note of Senator Kennedy office hours in City Hall. Manager Donoghue commented on informational meeting concerning LHS construction. C. Nuon noted that Matt Nelson of the LTC is leaving his position and noted his past efforts.

Meeting adjourned at 9:10 PM.

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