March 26, 2014
Opening Statement: It’s a great honor to be here. When I arrived in Blackstone there was no economic development plan. Created a program of economic development [he’s reading his statement]. Brought in Northeastern University school of engineering to assist in development of downtown. Has extensive experience in 40B programs. Is a certified procurement officer. Has been doing state, county local budgets for 30 years. [Goes through experience in all aspects of local government].
Councilor Samaras – Question – How would you guide council if there was a need for a tax increase to fund services? First you have to review the budget to determine what you’re trying to accomplish. There are areas of budget that you can do without. Another way is to refinance your bonds to lower interest rates. There are things you can’t touch like retirement benefits. Question – As city manager, how do you see your role when crime rises? The town administrator is the leader in those situations, particularly in home break-ins. We continually visit our senior housing projects to ensure them they are safe. I’ve been on the scene of major house fires, not to micromanage but to give support. Question – How would you work with the Lowell Plan? You have two natural resources: senior citizens and the University of Massachusetts. We’re going to put them to work and have them learn from the business community as to what some of the pitfalls and successes are.
Councilor Belanger: Question – Tell us about Blackstone? It’s in the Blackstone Valley between Worcester and Providence. We’re putting in a bike path connecting the two. Annual budget is $21 million. Population is 9300 people Would consider moving to Lowell. Question – Talk about work in state treasurer’s office? Was in charge of Hamden County pension fund. Continued explanation of his work handling bonds in Hamden County treasurer’s office. Question – About new judicial center not moving very quickly, how would you contribute to this? I would hope Representative Murphy stays in the House to help with the funding. We have to work with the delegation but the manager has to sell it.
Mayor Elliott: Question – Do you routinely reach your levy capacity or is it dependent on expenses? We back into it based on the cost of what we need. Says government chronically underfunds training. Training is extremely important. Question – Do you do an RFP even if the law doesn’t require it? Always send things out to bid because you always get a better deal.
Councilor Kennedy: Question – Hamden County Treasurer? I was elected to a six year term but was not re-elected. Question – How does your career help you to be the city manager of Lowell? The 30 years experience overall. Massachusetts Law applies regardless of the size of the community. I’ve also had to react to emergencies. It’s all the same concept. Question – benefit of being in smaller community that you have to be creative with resources? Talking about trailer parks and 40B developments. Question – Would you take the job without a contract? I would like a contract but it’s not a deal breaker.
Councilor Leahy: Question – How would you operate in Lowell? You can’t do it alone. It’s a team effort. Talks about management style with department heads. Question – about hiring practices. Team approach. See what everyone thinks we need. Question – what would your first day on the job entail? Meet with everyone. Give everyone my cell phone number. I’d meet each councilor individually.
Councilor Martin: Question – You’ve spoken a lot about senior citizens? We have two elderly housing projects and two nursing homes but we’re also getting 80 new homes that will have families. But the demographics show that the number of elderly will double. Question – you said Blackstone was an old industrial town, are there mills there? Yes, a lot were torn down. There’s no rehab projects going on. Mostly it’s now vacant space. Question – how do you have departments with zero growth in their budgets?
Councilor Mercier: Question – Could you make the transition to the much larger city of Lowell? I would hope to be. Question – Have you been to Lowell before? Just to the university once. Question – What do you know about Lowell? Not as much as I should. Question – Do you know of any problems in the city of Lowell? Same as other cities; housing, public safety. Question – How do you hire 5 new police without raising taxes? I can find the money in the budget without touching reserves and without raising taxes. Looks at where free cash came from. That shows where department budgets are inflated. Question – What is your greatest quality? Communications, but mostly as a listerner.
Councilor Milinazzo: Question – What can you say to convince this council that you’re ready to make the leap from Blackstone to Lowell? The training I’ve had; wherever I’ve gone we’ve balanced the budget in a methodical way. Question – would you ever recommend spending reserves rather than raising taxes? I’d have to have a reason for doing it; that there was no alternative.
Councilor Rourke: Question – about collective bargaining. . . .
Closing Statement: Talks of the importance of government caring for children, elderly and the sick. Lowell is a diverse community. This has been a great opportunity for me. I hope you’ll let me help you bring this city to greatness. I don’t have all the answers but you’ll get honest answers. I’ll get you information. We’ll work as a team for a better Lowell. Reads a laudatory message from a former selectman in Sherborn where he was town manager. He stresses experience and work ethic.