City Council Meeting, March 18, 2014

Suspension of Rules

HR Director Mary Callery reports to council on interview arrangements. She’s still waiting to hear from two candidates who are trying to fit their schedules. Four candidates are scheduled. She does say that Robert Bruner, the candidate from Michigan, is scheduled for 6pm on March 25. She’s working with the MIS Department to do that interview by video. Three other candidates are scheduled but she didn’t identify which ones and on which nights. That might be finalized tomorrow.

Regarding the Auditor, another candidate has dropped out leaving only two. They’re both scheduled for interviews on April 2 beginning at 6 pm.
Councilor Mercier moves to suspend the rules to discuss the process of selecting city manager. She asks CM Geary if when the council submitted their selections the process had officially begun. Geary says it probably started sooner. She agrees and cites the state’s conflict of interest law requiring a disclosure to be filed before a process officially begins. She asks when Geary received the disclosure from Leahy. He says Monday. Mercier says that was after the fact. She says to Leahy that she means “no respect to one of the candidates who is related to someone” but there is an appearance of not following the law and she believes the person (Councilor Leahy) should recuse himself. She doesn’t make a motion but just asks “that the person do the right thing.” She says “I don’t see how you can be objective and not choose any of the candidates we chose.” Says “that’s just my opinion.”

Leahy says “I made my choices. When I read the law it says public disclosure. It was in the paper. That was public disclosure. The paperwork came afterwards. I’ve spoken to lawyers too. Should I have filed it on Friday? Probably, but running your own business is difficult. As to why I chose the ones I did, I didn’t pick people who moved around every two years. I chose ones with economic development experience, someone like a Marty Meehan. He’s done wonders. He didn’t come in and just do the academics. That’s what I’m looking for in a city manager. I picked a guy from next door to Portsmouth. We’re always saying we want to be like Portsmouth. Local business leaders don’t want someone who bounces around. I used my own brain. I just picked five people I thought could do the job.”

Revert back to agenda . . . Response to Prior Motions

Councilor Kennedy is critical of a motion response on snow removal. He says the report only documents how it was done. He says the council wanted the response to include a better way to do it. He wants to send the report back to get a “more comprehensive” report. CM Geary asks if it could be referred to a subcommittee and then develop a report in the interim. Kennedy says he’d rather get an updated report and then decide whether it should go to a subcommittee.

Regarding location of recycling centers, Councilor Belanger says there should be a public hearing before such a site is chosen. Says he will make a motion about that. Councilor Rourke moves that this report be sent to the Neighborhood Subcommittee.

Councilor Leahy comments on response to motion about pedestrian crosswalk at Dutton and Market. Says report is too concerned with vehicle traffic and not enough about people on foot. Traffic engineer says the pedestrians are crossing properly but the problem is that vehicles are not yielding to pedestrians when they should be. He says a four-way walk light delays everything too much. He says he’s asked police to monitor it for compliance.


Cancel council meeting of March 25, 2014 (to hold city manager interviews). Extended discussion on procedure to be followed at interview meetings, mostly about which councilor will ask first question each night. City Solicitor will research and notify council.


Economic Develop Subcommittee report: DPD gave update on Tanner Street Plan. Also discussion of parking ordinance. Motions to send Tanner Street plan to a public hearing and to conduct a parking study using funds from the parking enterprise account. For full report on this subcommittee report, see my previous post.


Councilor Leahy to have streets paved last year be inspected because of apparent problems already developing with them.

Councilor Kennedy regarding “Matrix Study”. He explains Matrix Study is a management consulting study of Lowell Police done in 2009. It contains many recommendations that have not been addressed. This motion asks that Public Safety Subcommittee review this study even though it’s five years old. He believes being an “accredited” police department puts city in better place to get grants. Councilor Mercier requests the police superintendent provide councilors with an executive summary in a few pages so the councilors don’t have to read a 100 page document.

Councilors Belanger and Rourke request council have a discussion on parking in the city’s neighborhoods. Rourke says he’s received many complaints about cars parking on sidewalks (Ed. Note: I concur). Would like to address things like this. Belanger says it’s a public safety issue. It’s a particular problem in Pawtucketville. Some streets should have parking limited to only one side because they’re so narrow.

Councilor Belanger requests report on meals tax increase that took effect back in 2010. He says it applies to economic development. Wants to know how much has been raised. Says he thought it was to go into marketing the city but that the amount spent for marketing the city has not increased. He doesn’t want to see this money used to balance the budget. It should be used to market things like the MRT and the CVB.

Mayor Elliott request report on status of Smith Baker Center.

City Solicitor reports that the interview event in the past has always been a special meeting of the council. Kennedy moves that the council meet as a committee of the whole for all interviews. (Ed. Note: Councilor collectively seem confused by this entire discussion as am I – I think it’s purpose is to determine which councilor asks the first question in each interview; does it follow the regular council meeting rotation of who votes first or does the “committee of the whole” establish another rotation). Mercier moves that the council meet as a committee of the whole and that the mayor be the chair of that committee.

Motion to adjourn at 8:17 pm

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