Report on Lowell City Council meeting of October 2, 2013

Lowell City Council meeting – October 2, 2013

A relatively brief and quite cordial meeting. Here’s my report:

Sean Harmon of Harmon Paints briefs the council on his efforts to organize a voluntary, donated renovation of the City Council chambers. Councilors express their appreciation but have questions about the cost and the timetable for completion. Part of the proposal includes some original art work from local artists. No one has said this explicitly, but several councilors are hinting around what I take to be their concern that the art be within the mainstream of local tastes lest it disturb the sensibilities of some city residents. There is already $25,000 appropriated for the city for renovations to the council chamber but this would potentially alleviate that need with a more elaborate but fully donated project. Because this was not on the agenda, no vote can be taken on this item.

Big, multi-million dollar loan order to upgrade some of the city’s sewer system. The city is under a federal order to do this work, but it would also eliminate the need for many homeowners, especially those in Centralville, to pay flood insurance. It seems that everyone on the council is going to support this but there is much talk about how they don’t want to spend the money but really have to. The average customer will pay $20 per year additional in sewer charges for this work. Passes 8-0 with Councilor Elliot abstaining due to his employment by the Environmental Protection Agency.

On the city manager’s response to previous motions, there was much talk about how to best respond to the uptick in acts of violence in certain areas of the city. While the best information is that the violence is not random but is frequently drug-related or has some other nefarious context, the crime-doers are not noted for their marksmanship and no one wants to get hit by a stray round. Also there is a legitimate concern that perception becomes reality. There will be scheduled a meeting of the public safety committee to discuss all of these issues. (See items at bottom of this post for more info).


10.1. C. Elliott – Req. City Mgr. have proper department investigate the installation of yellow fluorescent crosswalk signage at crosswalks located within school zones. – Brief discussion. Everyone agrees it’s a good idea. Passes unanimously.

10.2. C. Elliott – Req. City Mgr. have proper department enforce provisions of new parking placard
ordinance. Issue seems to be the process for replacing old resident parking signs with new signs.

10.3. C. Elliott – Req. Election Department address signage issue at Pawtucket Memorial polling location. General discussion of signage and polling accessibility. Also a reminder that all schools in Lowell will be closed on city election day.

10.4. C. Elliott – Req. Election Department provide a report and explanation regarding changes in polling locations. Concern here is that state law prohibits polling places being located in establishments that serve alcohol, however, no additional changes will be made to polling places before the city election. There may be five or six additional polling locations that much be moved in the future.

10.5. C. Mercier – Req. City Mgr. have Departmental Services instruct owners to make safe the area
between 919 and 933 Varnum Ave. by cutting back the trees that are obstructing the view near
D’Youville Manor. The remedy sought has already been accomplished.

The following are three “City Manager responses” to past council motions.

“Request City Manager report on downtown violence.”

Currently the Lowell Police Department (LPD) deploys officers on overtime to address disruptive
behavior in the Downtown area on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. In most cases the detail
starts at 11:00 pm until 3:00 am.

In addition to highly visible proactive patrol, officers focus on traffic enforcement and parking
violations, which are effective tactics to reduce disorder in general. Along with uniformed patrol
activity, the Special Investigation Section (SIS) conducts both spot checks and covert investigations
of downtown liquor establishments. Since March of 2011, the LPD has submitted 20 violation
complaints against downtown liquor establishments to the Lowell License Commission.

“Request City Manager provide a report on any difficulty in filling police details as requested by
eating and drinking establishments and explain the Police Department’s failure to provide a
requested police detail on the weekend of August 16 to 18.”

Several eating and drinking establishments in the City requested police detail officers for the evening of
Saturday, August 17, 2013. Numerous locations did have detail officers assigned to their establishments.
The Lowell Police Department (LPD) was not able to provide detail officers on this night to The Crown
on Middlesex Street, Brian’s Ivy Hall on Merrimack Street, and Village Smokehouse on Middle Street.
On August 17th the list of available officers willing to work private details was exhausted. Historically,
the Southeast Asian Water Festival brings in thousands of visitors to the City and multiple public and
private venues have pre and post Festival events. For these reasons additional Lowell Police officers
were hired on overtime throughout the day and night. Normal on-duty staffing was significantly
increased throughout the City including downtown and specific neighborhoods where anticipated house
parties occur. In addition, resources from the Massachusetts State Police Community Action Team, State
Police Helicopter, and Middlesex Sheriff’s Van and Gang Unit assisted in patrolling the City. The
purpose of coordinated effort was to provide highly visible pro-active uniformed police presence in the
During the night officers did provide extra attention to the locations where a detail officer was not
provided. Specifically, The Crown received extra attention by uniformed Lowell Police officers until just
before the fight and shooting that occurred after 1:30 am on August 18, 2013. Unfortunately officers
were dispatched to address disturbance calls in other locations in the City just prior to the incident.

“Request City Manager report on the implementation of the rental inspection ordinance to

To date, the Office Manager and Clerks in Development Services have entered applications for over
4,200 units, nearly three times the number that were typically inspected each year under the old
ordinance. Those units include approximately 1,600 units in owner-occupied two-family residences
or other properties which do not require an inspection pursuant to the ordinance. Approximately
2,300 units have been inspected by one of the City’s Sanitary Code Enforcement Inspectors to date.
The remaining 300 have not yet been inspected but most have appointments pending. Of the units
inspected to date, 116 failed the initial inspection. A failed inspection means that the unit had one or
more violations of the Sanitary Code. Of those failed units, to date 49 have subsequently passed a reinspection.

2 Responses to Report on Lowell City Council meeting of October 2, 2013

  1. Sengly Kong says:

    The Southeast Asian Water Festival brings thousands of tourist from all over America and abroad to Lowell boosting local economy and promoting Lowell as the cultural city in the country. However, the water festival committee has been struggling to keep it up and running from year to year. Scores of community members have complained that the event has become drastically downsized in the last few years because of ever increasing expenses in running the event. It would be a great loss to the city economically and culturally if this event come to an end in the near future. The City needs to help the committee to cut down expenses in order to sustain this important event. Thank you Dick for sharing the report.

    Sengly Kong

  2. George DeLuca says:

    Hi Sengly,
    It’s good to hear from you … it seems to have been awhile and you have a keen perspective on many issues.

    The discussion at the Council meeting wasn’t aimed at the actual event, though its true that security officials were once again well prepared before, during and after.

    As for your point, I totally agree with you, having attended for the past several years. I miss the lights in the water ceremony that was once held at the Middlesex Community College grounds by the Eastern Canal.

    I also miss the predominantly cultural stage shows of several years ago. It’s sad to think that the young ones who represent the South East Asian Community in Lowell may be becoming “Americanized” at such a fast clip. But I guess all of us who were born of immigrants, or 2nd-6th generation can relate, Lowell being what it is.

    Now, I mostly enjoy the walk along the river, where you feel like you are in South East Asia for an afternoon or a couple of hours. This makes it ok that the talent on the main stage is more on the modern American side.

    Yes, absolutely, this festival must keep going and I believe that it will find a way. It has to be exhausting for the organizers and workers to put this on year after year, as its understood that the coordination goes on year around.

    I hope organizers continue to expand the sponsor base and solidify the necessary qualifications for grants. I wouldn’t be disappointed if the festival was scaled back a bit, if that’s what’s needed … especially the main stage aspect. Entertainment can filter among the riverwalk and even infiltrate the quad area by the main stage (instead of ON the main stage?) Hopefully, the festival will continue to establish itself and the donors and volunteers will continue to help make it happen.

    The South East Water Festival has become part of Lowell’s culture as well as an extension of the South East Asian Culture. Congratulations to the organizers on their efforts to bring South East Asia to Lowell year after year.